One day in the future, astronauts on a long-term deep-space mission might have the ability to use 3-D printers to make delicious, nutritious meals.
Several decades from now, an astronaut in a Mars colony might feel a bit hungry. Rather than reach for a vacuum-sealed food packet or cook up some simple greenhouse vegetables in a tiny kitchen, the astronaut would visit a microwave-sized box, punch a few settings, and receive a delicious and nutritious meal tailored to his or her exact tastes.
This is the promise of the rapidly maturing field of 3-D food printing, an offshoot of the revolution that uses machines to build bespoke items out of metal, plastic, and even living cells. Sooner than you think, 3-D printed designer meals may be coming to a rocketship, or a restaurant, near you.
“Right now, astronauts on the space station are eating the same seven days of food on rotations of two or three weeks,” said astronautical engineer Michelle Terfansky, who studied the potential and challenges of making 3-D printed food in space for a master’s thesis at the University of Southern California. “It gets the job done, but it’s not exactly home cooking.”