NASA and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) are asking students to boldly go where no one has gone before by engineering the future of food in space. The challenge is part of the “Future Engineers” collaboration between the two groups.
The challenge is open to kids from kindergarten up to 12th grade to create 3D models of non-edible food-related items, like cutlery and plates, that astronauts will be able to print in the year 2050 – although you'd think by then we'd be able to 3D print more than just plastic utensils. There are two categories, “Junior” and “Teen”, and submissions are open until May 1.
The 10 semifinalists will be announced on June 3, and winners in the two categories will be announced on July 5. The winners will win a trip to New York to see the Space Shuttle Enterprise with an astronaut and a Star Trek "Prize Pack", which will make many adults very jealous.
In Star Trek, the Replicator is a machine that can create objects and food from pure energy. But while we can’t assemble “Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.” in the real world just yet, 3D printers will be critical for astronauts on long-term missions.
Off-planet manufacturing might become fundamental for creating instruments and habitats, a potential approach to reducing the cost of space missions as well as guaranteeing the future needs of space explorers.
So, Starfleet cadets, the future of food in space is in your hands. You can enter the challenge here.