BeeHex was destined for space. It was funded by NASA in a mission to feed hungry astronauts on manned missions to Mars, but now it has abandoned ship and spends most of its days making pizza at sports events and tourist attractions.
In 2013, engineer and entrepreneur Anjan Contractor received a $125,000 grant from NASA to a build a prototype 3D food printer under the Small Business Innovation Research program. It was hoped the food printer could help save on space and supplies while keeping astronauts healthy and gastronomically satisified on long-term missions.
“Long distance space travel requires 15-plus years of shelf life,” Contractor told Quartz at the time. “The way we are working on it is, all the carbs, proteins and macro and micro nutrients are in powder form. We take moisture out, and in that form it will last maybe 30 years.”
Motherboard reports that NASA withdrew its support for the project after budget cuts forced them to put auxiliary Mars projects on the backburner.
It’s since been adapted and sold for much more grounded and commercial use. As BeeHex explained in a statement: “BeeHex uses robots to make high-quality pizza from the finest ingredients. BeeHex pizza is made by clean robots. The pizza is not only visually appealing but delicious, creating excitement among chefs, restaurant chains, theme parks and major food brands.”
But don’t feel too bad that BeeHex had to let go of its childhood dream. While some may cite it as an example of wasteful investment of public money, it serves as another example of how technology developed for space can have a commercial use and practical life outside the ivory towers of space exploration.