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3D printing in space: What I learnt from my astronaut mission

Author : Sabrina Kerber, Space Architect and Analog Astronaut

31 July 2020

In December 2019, I embarked on a simulated astronaut mission in Hawai’i. The EMMIHS-II mission is a collaboration between the European Space Agency (ESA)-funded Euro Moon Mars Initiative (EMM), the International Lunar Exploration Working Group (ILEWG) and the International Moon Base Alliance (IMA).

It took place at the renowned Hawai'i Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) habitat. For two weeks, our international crew of astronauts lived, worked and researched in this habitat just like astronauts on the moon. 

In addition to being completely isolated from ‘Earth’, the simulation included eating food made from freeze-dried ingredients, leaving the habitat only on approved extravehicular activities (EVA) while wearing spacesuits with integrated life support systems, and being restricted to eight minutes of shower time per week – all while conducting scientific experiments. 

As a crew engineer, I was responsible for fixing anything that broke in the habitat and maintaining all technical equipment. However, I also brought my own research to the base, including a collaborative project with MakerBot to investigate how 3D printing could be used to improve life on a moonbase. I decided to test the MakerBot METHOD 3D printer and its reliability on a space mission. Our crew of six tested various operations, ranging from medical procedures to aspects of habitability and astronaut performance. The simulation was set in an isolated, confined and extreme environment to recreate the harsh milieu of an extra-terrestrial destination, such as the moon. 

Read the full article in the August issue of DPA.

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