July 24, 2014

More than a dozen NASA satellites and spacecraft constantly monitor our planet's vital signs. In order to get people interested in our galaxy and allow those with access to a 3D printer to produce their own version of spacecraft, NASA has now released 21 3D models of asteroids, NASA's spacecraft and satellite, and planetary surfaces etc on their website.


These .stl-formatted printable models are scaled to approximately 4 inches (100 mm) in the longest dimension. And they are available for download for free. To make it easy for users, NASA has even pre-cut the large pieces to make them printable.

However NASA is aware that 3D printing often involves trial and error. So probably not every model is 3D printable. NASA states on each page that "the .stl file was produced by scaling the original model and converting it directly to .stl format; it may not yet be ideal for printing. We welcome your feedback on your experience."



Among the collection, you can find the model of spacecraft and satellite such as Cassini, Dawn, Juno, Kepler, Mars Odyssey, Messenger, Pioneer, Rosetta, Stardust and Voyager, etc. The Moon Nearside Farside demonstrate the differences between the near and far side of Earth's Moon (see the image below). Also you can find 3D model of asteroid Itokawa, a topographic model of a portion of Valles Marineris with vertical exageration, STL file of Vesta which is split into Northern and Southern Hemispheres suitable for printing and assembly into a Vesta Globe.

Moon Nearside Farside


Valles Marineris


On NASA's site, you can find a growing collection of 3D models, textures, and images from inside NASA. All of these resources are free to download and use. "Our team's goal is to provide a one-stop shop for 3D models, images, textures, and visualizations. We offer these assets for your use, free and without copyright." notes NASA. And NASA is working on adding more to the site.

Earlier this month, NASA has 3D printed a physical model of the expanding cloud produced by Eta Carinae Homunculus Nebula, allowing them to study even dust-obscured portions of the Homunculus that face away from Earth.

Goddard astrophysicist Theodore Gull said, "While 3-D-printed models will make a terrific visualization tool for anyone interested in astronomy, I see them as particularly valuable for the blind, who now will be able to compare embossed astronomical images with a scientifically accurate representation of the real thing."

Posted in 3D Printing Applications

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fred mc veigh wrote at 10/23/2016 1:55:21 AM:

It would be nice to have a model of the moon that could be loaded straight into blender as a cycles render.

Fire Angel wrote at 8/14/2014 6:15:38 PM:

It's a pity some of these models are not in better formats for 3d modellers to use. I'd much rather have Vesta as an intact model than two halves, as I could then actually use it as a model in a 3D rendering with my own spacecraft model in front of it. As it is I have no idea how to reassemble the two halves, and no use for the model as it is.

Eldritch wrote at 7/24/2014 6:48:03 PM:

And the files are laced with mesh errors. Try the Vesta model, for example.

Alex wrote at 7/24/2014 5:44:13 PM:

I just printed Eros, waiting for it to dry....

dr. Plama, Monkeyfab wrote at 7/24/2014 4:13:52 PM:

Oh, these are mostly unprintable things.Cool, but too detailed. I wish the Galactic Empire released some Death Star STL files.

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