I'm in search of a new phrase to replace "pie in the sky" to describe the latest ambitious space mining startup. On its face, the notion of 3D printers on asteroids seems more ridiculous to me than a simple lemon meringue in the clouds, and yet that is exactly what the just-launched venture Deep Space Industries (DSI) proposes to do.
Less than a year after Planetary Resources announced its own plans to mine asteroids in space, DSI is upping the ante with its own vision for zero-gravity resource extraction that goes one step further to include actually producing things in space using the company's "MicroGravity Foundry... a patent-pending breakthrough in 3D printers able to output complex metal components using a simple process with few moving parts."
The idea is that it should be much cheaper and more efficient to build what's needed to further space exploration using resources extracted from asteroids than shuttling materials from Earth. Imagine sending a robot into a mountain with some mining tools and a 3D printer. The robot mines material to feed into the 3D printer, which prints up more robots and supplies to build a smelter at the mouth of the mine, which is then used to build even bigger things. You get the idea.… Read more