NASA has awarded Systems and Material Research Corporation (SMRC) in Austin Texas a $125,000 grant to develop 3D printed food. The product will ultimately be sent into space in order to more efficiently feed NASA astronauts.
NASA has long battled with the restrictions of dehydrated foods. For example, there is limited space aboard spacecraft, and there are no refrigeration facilities.
At this time, NASA only places enough food on its spacecraft to meet time requirements plus a little extra in case of emergencies. Shuttles that will remain in orbit for long periods of time can lead to high food costs since rockets must be dispatched to deliver more goods.
The goal at SMRC is to create a prototype that can “synthesize” healthy and tasty food.
The team plans to use 3D printing to provide macronutrients such as carbohydrates, protein, and fat. SMRC would then use inkjet printing to provide flavor, smell, and micronutrients, which include vitamins and minerals.
SMRC is currently working on its 3D food printer with food scientists at North Carolina State University.
If the 3D food printer becomes a reality, there will no longer be a need for fully pre-packaged meals. Instead, NASA would send generic and basic ingredients into space, at which point they will be printed into a fully edible meal.
Astronauts have long complained about the MRE’s they take into space. That means the real challenge for SMRC might not be creating 3D printed food but also creating meals that don’t make astronauts yearn for a trip back to Earth for a home cooked meal.
SMRC isn’t the only company working on 3D food printers, but it is the only company at the moment that may soon be feeding NASA astronauts with the new technology.
Do you think SMRC will be successful in creating 3D printed food?