The next revolution will come from space. The P2P aerospace revolution will incorporate hundreds of thousands of citizens into space exploration and will go far beyond what any state has been able to do so far. The first human settlers of new planets will be makers.
3D printers have reached space. The first, installed in the International Space Station, just printed its first object. The astronaut excitedly said, “It’s a big milestone, not only for NASA and Made In Space, but for humanity as a whole.” Both Neal Armstrong and “Butch” Wilmore are leaders of this unique moment, from which there is no turning back. They blazed a trail, which was as uncertain as all trails are that lead to better futures.
Forty-five years ago, the symbol of the conquest of the space was the first footprints on the moon. They marked the beginning of exploration. The faceplate that recently came out of the 3D printer has a very different purpose, that of the construction of a new world. Following this first achievement, little by little, space stations will stop being sites where everything arrives in packet-mail from the Earth, in those little compartments where all kinds of trash accumulates until they are abandoned, like we saw in Gravity.
How does a 3D printer get into space?
Jason Dunn grew up on the Gulf of Mexico, convinced that when he was big, he would work at NASA or for one of its big contractors dedicated to space exploration. But investment in the space program was shrinking little by little. The aerospace industry underwent restructuring, facilities were dismantled, hundreds of jobs were lost… being an employee of NASA didn’t seem to be the best route.
In 2006, when Dunn first heard about the new private aerospace industry, he accepted the challenge. In 2008, he created his first space business, EarthRise Space Incorporated, and participated in the Google Lunar XPrize. In 2010, he signed up at Singularity University, where he met Aaron Kemmer. Together, they decided to found Made In Space.
Made In Space was created with the objective of allowing humanity be an interplanetary species. The first step to achieve that objective is the possibility of building hardware in space.
A roadmap in 3 steps
It was an ambitious mission that began with a very simple goal: to reduce the cost of shipping of materials and supplies to space stations by starting industrial production in space. For this, he designed a roadmap with 3 steps: Learn how make a 3D printer work in a atmosphere of microgravity; Design a printer; Launch it.
And so was that Dunn came to NASA, not as a hopeful employee, but as a project member. After 30,000 hours of testing and 400 orbits, the Zero Gravity printer was ready to go into space. This past September, it was launched to the International Space Station, to be installed on its base after a long trip. After some minor adjustments, a few days ago, it finished printing the first object, a faceplate that proudly bears the logo of Made In Space… and that of NASA.
When someone asks Dunn what his are plans for the next ten years, you knows the answer will be impressive. He assures us that the next Industrial Revolution will be in space.
Made in Space is the beginning of a change in the surroundings of programming and design, a dizzying development of free repositories to print all kinds of objects (including nano-satellites) that allow us to go further in exploration and in semi-permanent settlements. In the near future, sending and following a satellite from a mobile app will be as common as flying a drone is today. For Dunn and Kemmer, the P2P aerospace revolution will bring hundreds of thousands of citizens into the exploration of space and will go far beyond what any State has been able to do so far.
It might give us vertigo or seem incredible, but P2P production could finally open the doors of the lunar colonies of Philip K. Dick or Heinlein. The first human settlers will be makers who will accept the challenge and the joy of creating their own tools.