NASA is thinking about using 3D printers for food replication to sustain astronauts for long periods of time in space.
The Guardian reports that NASA is funding research for the printer in order to successfully send a manned team to Mars– a year long mission.
NASA has given a $125,000 grant to Texas-based Systems and Materials Research (SMRC) in hopes they would be able to create a "nutritious and flavorful" combination of foods suitable for astronauts to consume over their duration in space.
These "digital" recipes will mix different powders to create the texture and even the smell of food.
Anjan Contractor, an engineer at SMRC, used a 3D printer to print chocolate for his wife, sparking the idea for further research.
Currently astronauts eat pre-packaged food in the same fashion soldiers eat MREs. The meals are not high in nutrients and according to those who eat them, not very good.
"[Astronaut food] is not adequate in nutrition or acceptability through the five-year shelf life required for a mission to Mars, or other long-duration missions," David Steitz, a NASA spokesman said.
The proposal of printed food could be a great way to meet each astronauts specific needs. SMRC is looking into making a pizza first. This would be an important first step because of the various ingredients and layers of the food.
All of the vitamins and minerals will be stored in the cartridges in powdered form and added during the 3D layering process with oil and water, reported The Guardian.
Another great feature of 3D printing food would be the ability to receive recipes from Earth through transmissions to the printer.
"Mom designs a cookie in a computer, sends the cookie to the space shuttle and the son or daughter prints out a cookie at Christmas," Contractor said in his presentation at the Humans 2 Mars summit in Washington.
SMRC said one of their larger goals than just creating food for astronauts is using this technology to combat world hunger, and eliminating excess waste and materials.