During the 2012 Republican primaries, presidential candidate and former Speaker of the
House, Newt Gingrich, made a promise to establish a permanent base on the moon by 2020
if he was elected President.
A firm believer in expanding space exploration, he was seen during his campaign frequently mentioning his plans to promote space travel. During one debate he even went as far
to say he would like to colonize the moon “permanently,” and get to Mars as fast as possible
to set up livable space stations. To win extra votes, he said he would consider bringing rival
Mitt Romney on as chief advisor to his moon colony planning team.
In March 2013, a Dutch startup company, Mars One, announced a similar plan. The
company hopes to send a select group of astronauts on a one-way trip to the Red Planet
by 2023. Again, the goal was based on establishing a permanent human presence on Mars.
According to the company’s news release, if all goes as planned, Mars One will launch four
astronauts on the voyage in 2022, landing the team on the planet’s surface in 2023, after
which they would begin constructing the colony. The plan after this: every two years, four
additional astronauts will arrive to build up the colony. As of May 7, 2013, Mars One had
over 78,000 people sign up for this one-way mission.
While realization of lunar and Martian colonies is well into the future, the International
Space Station may soon have its own Star Trek-like food replicator to aid the long space
missions required for colonization efforts. NASA has taken the next step to aid these efforts,
awarding a $125,000 grant to Austin, Texas-based Systems and Materials Research Corp.
(SMRC) for the development of a 3-D printer capable of printing a pizza from shelf-stable
Probably the most common rainy-day food, pizza has been missing from astronauts’ menus
due to an inability to reproduce the food in a space-friendly form.
SMRC, founded by Anjan Contractor, built a basic food printer from a chocolate printer
to win NASA’s Small Business Innovation Research program. The printer is based on an
open-source RepRap 3-D printer. Construction of the pizza-printing prototype 3-D printer
will begin in early June, and will work by layering the dough onto a heated plate and then
adding tomato sauce and toppings. The proteins for the pizza will be provided by cartridge
injectors filled with organic base powders derived from algae, insects, and grass.
In a report by Quartz, Contractor said, “Long-distance space travel requires foods with
15-plus years of shelf life. The way we’re working on it is that all the carbs, proteins, and
macro- and micronutrients are in powder form. We take moisture out and in that form, it
may last 30 years.”
While Contractor’s main focus for his pizza-printing 3-D printer is now long-distance space
travel, his eventual goal is to turn the system into a design that can be licensed to someone who
can turn it into a business. Perhaps a Pizza Hut on the moon or Mars?
The major advantage of 3-D printers like the one he’s developing for NASA, Contractor
told Quartz, is that they provide personalized nutrition. “Whether you’re healthy or sick, we
all have different dietary needs. If you can program your needs into a 3-D printer, it can print
exactly the nutrients that you need, thus providing astronauts with their very own pizza as
The International Space Station is due for their first 3-D pizza-printing delivery in 2014.
However, in reality they may be waiting for quite a while longer.
3-D printers are popping in unexpected areas, from printing Harry Potter-like invisibility
cloaks to tissues to food, what is next for 3-D printers? The sky is the limit.
EDI TORIAL DIREC TOR Tim Studt
MANAGING EDITOR Lindsay Hock
WEB PRODUC TION SPECIALIS T
AR T DIREC TOR Carol Kuchta