The path to Mars is paved with gooey mozzarella, thanks to NASA, who have just approved a $125,000 research grant for the construction of a 3D pizza printer. Austin, Texas, engineer Anjan Contractor, of Systems and Materials Research Corporation, will use the grant to build an advanced prototype of his food synthesizer, which he hopes will one day be used to feed astronauts on long voyages through space.
In theory, the synthesizer will use pressurized cartridges of powders and oils to build nutritious meals one layer at a time. Though pizza may seem like an odd choice, it is actually the ideal candidate food, since it can be printed in distinct layers that only require the print head to produce one substance at a time.
The process begins with a layer of dough, which will be baked by a heated plate at the bottom of the printer. Next comes the tomato paste, stored in powdered form then mixed with water and oil, and the cheese comes last.
NASA is hoping that the technology will be used to one day feed astronauts on the 520-day mission to Mars. "Long distance space travel requires 15-plus years of shelf life," Contractor said in an interview with Quartz. "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."
Contractor’s original prototype, which helped earn him the NASA grant, was a chocolate printer, which can be seen below: