NASA is looking for ways to recycle materials in space so they can be reused to make new objects, and they've just awarded $750,000 to a company in Washington State that's trying to make this concept a reality.
Firmamentum received the NASA funds to create a 3d printer which recycles plastic objects, turning the objects into material which is then used to 3d print new objects.
“This capability will enable the astronauts to use material that would otherwise be waste to maintain their spacecraft and adapt to unforeseen challenges on the Martian surface,” Jesse Cushing, whose involved in the project, said recently. “For example, if Mark Watney had a Refabricator, he could have easily recycled his food trays and other plastic waste into the tools and parts he needed to survive, and ‘The Martian’ would have been much less of a nail-biter.”
The team at Firmamentum has been able to recycle the same product 4 times on earth and this project will test how many times plastic products can be recycled by astronauts in space.
"This is an experiment to see how many times you can recycle plastic in the micro gravity environment before the polymers break down," said Rob Hoyt, President of Firmamentum.
This news follows reports from early June that saw the International Space Station 3d print its first functioning tool.