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NASA funds attempt at 3D food printer for pizza

NASA throws some money at an engineer who is developing a 3D food printer. First challenge? Making a pizza.

3D food printer schematic
This schematic shows how the 3D food printer would function.
Systems and Materials Research

"Star Trek" food replicators will always be the holy grail of space-snack technology, but we could be edging a step closer to the dream thanks to the work of mechanical engineer Anjan Contractor with Systems and Materials Research in Austin, Texas.

Systems and Materials Research recently received a $125,000 grant from NASA to make a pizza. OK, it's a little more complicated than that. Contractor already created a proof-of-concept printer that can print chocolate onto a cookie. His next goal is to print out dough and cook it while printing out sauce and toppings.

Contractor isn't just planning to use cartridges full of red sauce, but rather the building blocks of food products. Cartridges full of powders and oils could be combined to make different foods. These cartridges would have extremely long shelf lives, making them appropriate for feeding astronauts during long-distance space travel.

"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 told news site Quartz in an article posted Tuesday.

This doesn't sound like a sublime foodie experience, but it could be a practical way to keep people fed all the way to Mars. It could also offer a lot more variety than the usual freeze-dried fare. Five months into your trip to Mars, I bet a hot 3D-printed pizza with a mystery protein layer would taste pretty dang good.

Contractor is starting work on building the prototype pizza printer. In case you're hungry right now, you can check out his chocolate printer below.