Asteroid miner 3D-prints spacecraft prototype with alien metal
Planetary Resources, one of the companies aiming to mine asteroids and harvest valuable raw materials from space, has taken its ambitious a step further by 3D-printing an object using metal powder gleaned from a space rock.
This spacecraft prototype is the first object ever 3D-printed with material from outer space and, as the company pointed in a blog post Thursday, “it is reminiscent of a design that could originate from a 3D printer in the zero-gravity environment of space."
Planetary Resources sourced the alien material from the Campo Del Cielo craters near Argentina, the site of a meteor crash that happened over 4,000 years ago. The firm said it was composed of iron, nickel and cobalt — similar materials to refinery-grade steel.
Space mining has progressed rather quickly in the past year. Planetary Resources developed and put in orbit a spacecraft called Arkyd-3R, which it deployed from the International Space Station last July. The demonstration vehicle tested avionics, software and other key technology that future asteroid-mining probes will need.
Last month, President Barack Obama signed into law a debated bill that allows people to mine, sell and own any space material. The ground-breaking rule is considered a major boost to asteroid mining as it encourages the commercial exploration and utilization of resources from asteroids obtained by U.S. firms.
All images courtesy of Planetary Resources.