July 11, 2015 | By Simon

It goes without saying that the last year has been shaping up to be one of the most exciting years on record for space exploration since Neil Armstrong put his left boot on the surface of the Moon in 1969 and declared the moment “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Among other exciting developments that we’ve seen include sending the very first 3D printer - the Made in Space Zero-G Printer - to the International Space Station and subsequently, printing multiple objects including a wrench file that was emailed from Earth directly to the International Space Station.  Additionally, Elon Musk and his commercial space exploration company SpaceX have been making gigantic leaps themselves including the development of rockets that can land themselves for reuse as well as the inclusion of additive manufacturing technologies into the production of rocket engines.  

Now, for those who might not be formally trained for space exploration yet, NASA is offering earth-bound humans the opportunity to virtually explore planets similar to Google Earth, starting with a new web app that they’ve recently launched called Mars Trek.  

The app, which is free to use within any web browser, allows users to explore Mars in both 2D and 3D views with the ability to zoom in and out similar to Google Earth.  Unlike Google Earth however, NASA has built in some additional features that are designed to make the experience even more interactive for those who want to ‘own’ a little bit of this space exploration excitement with the aid of their 3D printer. Among other sets of tools aimed at supporting the exploration experience include a ‘Box Tool’ which allows curious earth-bound space explorers the ability to highlight an area of the Red Planet and generate an STL file based on the topographical properties of that area.   

Surely, the ability to not only view Mars in its entirety but also 3D print it is definitely a futuristic concept.  

In addition to the ability to 3D print the terrain of Mars, NASA has also supplied users with the ability to explore specific landing sites of various Mars Rovers including the Spirit, the Opportunity, the Curiosity, the Phoenix and  the Sojourner.  After navigating to these landing sites, the program gives users the option to download a high resolution 3D printable STL file of the individual locations, which average around 40-50 megabytes in size and are made up of around one million polygons apiece.    

While we’re still yet to see what people might do with this new and exciting data, it’s safe to say that it’s definitely one of the most innovative approaches towards sharing space exploration with the general public that we’ve ever seen.  



Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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Grace Brown wrote at 4/29/2016 12:18:42 AM:

that is the moon my friends thought it was mars to but i kept telling them

rb wrote at 7/14/2015 2:35:00 PM:

Nice picture of the Earth's moon during a lunar eclipse (just in case someone thought it was Mars...)

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