Have you ever wanted to be an astronaut, but then after seeing the kind of food they have to eat, you decided it wasn’t really worth it? The thought of eating anything out of a tube or pouch, especially when you are already in a cramped, weightless capsule, is too much for many of us.
BeeHex, a small startup that specializes in 3D printing, has taken on the task of changing what we have always considered ‘space food’.
The company recently raised $1 million to fund their newest project for NASA, which is to bring pizza to space. We’re not talking about delivery, either. For starters, the “30 minutes or less” rule definitely wouldn’t apply. The company is launching a 3D food printer that prints small personal pizzas for hungry spacemen. Yes, it literally prints food. Edible food.
In 2013, NASA awarded $125,000 to Systems and Materials Research Corporation, based in Austin, TX, to gather research on 3D printed foods and the possibilities of achieving such a thing in space.
The freeze-dried food that NASA currently sends for its astronauts, as delicious as that sounds, isn’t very popular among travelers. Not only that, but the food also doesn’t contain the nutritional value needed for someone who is embarking on a long voyage to Mars.
How this 3D Food Printer Works
The printer works like this: You pick the kind of pizza you want, then a nozzle will squeeze the dough into whatever shape your heart desires. You can even give the machine a .jpg file and it will squeeze the dough into the shape of the photo.
After that, two more nozzles will squeeze out the sauce and cheeses. The pizza is then placed into the oven to bake. Due to the small size of the pizza, as well as the ingredients being used, it only takes a mere five minutes for your snack to arrive.
The idea behind introducing 3D printed food onto shuttles is to give the astronauts something more nutritious, easy to make, and allow travelers to customize their food to their personal liking.
Also, storing powders that make dough and sauce would actually be easier than having freezers and refrigerators on the shuttle taking up vital space that could be used for other things.
Anjan Contractor, a former senior mechanical engineer at Systems and Materials Research, became BeeHex’s Chief Executive Officer in 2015. Contractor has taken the original project, meant for space, and worked with the rest of his team to expand the idea into the consumer market. Soon, we could all be ordering 3D pizzas at a mall kiosk! For now, the idea is still in the design phase.
What’s Next for BeeHex?
In the future, BeeHex is also working to add an app for customers to use. Through the app, the customer can choose the dough, toppings, and shape of their pizza without all the hassle of standing in front of a robot. “Compared to human workers, the robot is faster, cleaner, and more consistent,” says Jordan French, one of BeeHex’s founders.
Now that we know soon we won’t have to give up our love food for space travel, maybe it’s time to give NASA a call.