Science | January 7, 2023 11:45 am

MIT Tech Helps NASA Build Parts in Space

A potential solution to a timeless problem

International Space Station
The International Space Station in orbit.
NASA

Let’s say you’re involved in a project where you need to build or repair something when you discover that you’re missing something crucial — a screw or bolt in the correct size, perhaps. The solution to this is generally pretty simple. Maybe you have a jar full of nuts and bolts on hand; maybe you have a hardware store nearby. In the worst case scenario, you can always order a replacement part online.

All of these situations are only applicable to projects taking place on the surface of the Earth. Once you’re in space, you’re in a much more challenging position — there isn’t necessarily a box of odds and ends where the right part might be found just floating around.

That’s what makes a new venture from MIT and NASA so enticing. As The Washington Post reports, astronauts on the International Space Station recently completed a test of a new system that allows astronauts to build different parts on the fly while in space.

As the article describes, the technology centers around a box in which silicone and resin are used to make the parts in question.

It’s one of several projects from MIT’s Space Exploration Initiative that aims to make the process of getting to space — and working there — easier for all involved. Now that the parts have been made, the next step is testing them on Earth and determining whether or not they’re comparable to their counterparts made on the planet’s surface. If it turns out that they are, the daily tasks of astronauts will get a little easier.