If you find it hard to pack light for vacations, spare a thought for astronauts. Normally, space travelers have to take everything with them, from satellites to spare parts. But NASA’s plans to launch a 3-D printer into space next year could change all that.
The toaster-sized gadgets will act as portable factories, producing objects from layers of plastic. NASA engineers are currently using the printers in labs to make heat-resistant rocket pieces, replacement parts and small satellites that can be projected from a space station to transmit data to earth.
The first 3-D printer is scheduled to be tested in space in the fall.