NASA Emails Wrench to Astronaut

Thanks to the wonders of 3D printing
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 20, 2014 6:40 AM CST
NASA Emails Wrench to Astronaut
ISS commander Barry 'Butch' Wilmore holds his new wrench.   (NASA)

Butch Wilmore had a common problem—he couldn't find a socket wrench—with an uncommon twist: He's an astronaut on the International Space Station about 270 miles above the nearest hardware store. Solution? NASA emailed him one, in a manner of speaking. As the Guardian reports, NASA's mission control on Earth emailed a design to the space station's relatively new 3D printer, which then spit out a plastic wrench in about four hours. It marks "the first time an object has been designed on Earth and then transmitted to space for manufacture," reports Wired.

Considering that the astronauts would have waited months for a wrench of the old-fashioned variety to arrive, it's quite a feat. Gizmodo explains that the tool's design originated with a company called Made in Space, whose founder was listening to ISS radio communication and heard commander Wilmore talk about his wish for a wrench. "So we designed one ... and sent it up to him faster than a rocket ever could have," Mike Chen recounts at Backchannel. It's got ratchet action and everything. (Wilmore previously got another wish: the ability to watch college football in space.)

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