One of the biggest hurdles to a manned mission to Mars—or beyond? Food supply. Right now, refrigeration and freezing food takes up precious spacecraft resources, and NASA’s freeze-dried food staples have less than a five-year shelf life, which isn’t enough time for deep-space missions. Plus, space food is selected before a mission, and the crew don’t have a chance to personalize recipes.
But 3-D printing—literally, building meals from pre-stored ingredients—could allow astronauts to create healthy meals over long periods of time. (Not to mention the fact that astronauts could customize their dinners.) That’s why NASA is funding a six-month, $125,000 study to explore its potential.