According to some space experts, the current crop of astronauts should be better trained in how to use 3D printers. Why? Because it could potentially save their lives—and the lives of their fellow astronauts. Professor Jochen Hinkelbein, President of the German Society for Aerospace Medicine, recently told British newspaper The Telegraph how astronauts could be at a greater risk in the near future than ever before.
“In the context of future long-term missions, for example to Mars, with durations of several years, the risk for severe medical problems is significantly higher,” Hinkelbein said. “Therefore, there is also a substantial risk for a cardiac arrest in space requiring CPR.”
The diagnosis was corroborated by Dr Matthieu Komorowski, a Consultant in Intensive Care and Anaesthesia at Charing Cross hospital in London. “During these long-duration flights, the estimated risk of severe medical and surgical events, as well as the risk of loss of crew life, are significant,” Komorowski warned.
These space experts say that advanced training in 3D printing could give astronauts the chance to fabricate potentially life-saving medical equipment while up in space. Of course, 3D printable designs can be put together on Earth and then sent to space, but that becomes more and more difficult the further astronauts go from Earth. Those heading to Mars could totally lose contact with Earth, leaving them in a difficult position if they were to require some 3D printed medical equipment.
In these situations, astronauts would give themselves a huge advantage by honing their CAD and 3D printing skills in advance. While they wouldn’t need to be experts at the practice, having the ability to at least modify and print simple designs could be hugely advantageous.