NASA 3D Prints Parts for Future Space Drones – May Explore Volcanoes on Mars or Asteroids

Drone technology has continued to be improving significantly over the previous 4-5 years to a stage where their use is being considered by businesses like Amazon. This is what a team at NASA is working to create, although what one normally doesn’t imagine when they hear the word ‘drone’ is an unfamiliar kind of spacecraft buzzing around volcanoes on Mars.

Especially over the last few years there continues to be a convergence between drone technology and 3D printing. 3D print enables the fast creation of lightweight parts, custom and occasionally electronic components, making designing and fabricating the end product considerably more dependable and a drone considerably faster. At exactly the same time, NASA is investigating both technologies exploring other planets, trying to find means to further their reach out into space and finally sending human beings to colonize mars.

As the space agency looks at methods to better investigate asteroids and other planets, it’s been disclosed this past week that new research will be conducted to send robots into areas where conventional rover-like vehicles wouldn’t have the ability to get. NASA is examining whether they could have these vehicles work autonomously or if it’s required to have people controlling them and has yet again turned to rapid prototyping variations of these drones.

“This is a prospecting robot,” said senior technologist for innovative jobs, Rob Mueller at NASA’s Florida facility at Swamp Works, a space technology and invention laboratory. “The first step in having the capacity to use resources on an asteroid or Mars is finding where the resources are. They’re most likely in difficult-to-access places where there’s long-lasting shadow.

Mueller describes why such research, especially into volcanic features on Mars, could be significant: “You could set an entire habitat inside a lava tube from weather, thermal extremes, radiation and micrometeorites.”

Check out a video of the somewhat 3D printed space drone.