Thursday, May 23, 2013

Beam Up Extra Pepperoni

Another bit of Star Trek technology is on the brink of coming true.

NASA can send robots to Mars, no problem. But if it’s ever going to put humans on the Red Planet, it has to figure out how to feed them over the course of a years-long mission.

So the space agency has funded research for what could be the ultimate nerd solution: a 3-D printer that creates entrees or desserts at the touch of a button.

Yes, it’s another case of life imitating “Star Trek” (remember the food replicator?). In this case, though, the creators hope there is an application beyond deep-space pizza parties. The technology could also be used to feed hungry populations here on Earth.

Texas-based Systems and Materials Research Corp. has been selected for a $125,000 grant from NASA to develop a 3-D printer that will create “nutritious and flavorful” food suitable for astronauts, according to the company’s proposal. Using a “digital recipe,” the printers will combine powders to produce food that has the structure and texture of, well, actual food. Including smell.


One of the first goals for SMRC’s printer is the humble pizza. It was chosen because it contains a variety of nutrients and flavors, said David Irvin, director of research at SMRC. More importantly, a pizza is made up of layers, a key principle used in 3-D printing technology.

And you don’t have to figure out how to wedge the empty box into the trash can.

4 barks and woofs on “Beam Up Extra Pepperoni

  1. Well, in zero gravity, all that fat should spread out evenly. Practically look like the Michelin Man.

  2. the printers will combine powders to produce food that has the structure and texture of, well, actual food

    I can’t wait to see a) the fine print on the ingredients list, and b) the howling from the Teahad about Big Gubmint Intrusion when somebody at the FDA learns that pizza prototyped with melamine looks and tastes just like the real thing.

  3. I snagged and saved this story yesterday, for my “Friday Five” of things that did NOT suck about the week’s news. Still not sure I want to eat any of this stuff for a while, lol….taste-based “transformer” errors of the Star Trek story come to mind, lol!

    • I keep seeing the potential in ST for a replicator-induced Bertie Botts’ moment: “they really DO mean every flavor!”

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