NASA has recently announced it would give funds to a California-based 3D printing company for finding ways to turn asteroids into giant, autonomous spacecraft, which could fly to outposts in space, the media reported.
Made In Space’s project, known as RAMA (Reconstituting Asteroids into Mechanical Automata), could one day enable space colonization by helping make off-Earth manufacturing efficient and economically viable, Space.com reported.
About RAMA (Reconstituting Asteroids into Mechanical Automata):
Project RAMA, Reconstituting Asteroids into Mechanical Automata, has been designed to leverage the advancing trends of additive manufacturing (AM) and in-situ resource utilization (ISRU).
The project aims to enable asteroid rendezvous missions in which a set of technically simple robotic processes convert asteroid elements into very basic versions of spacecraft subsystems (GNC, Propulsion, Avionics).
Upon completion, the asteroid will be a programmed mechanical automata carrying out a given mission objective; such as relocation to an Earth-Moon liberation point for human rendezvous.
This technique could someday create an affordable and scalable way for NASA to achieve future roadmap items for exploring the solar system.
These techniques could be beneficial to scientific goals for understanding the solar system and its formation, as it is estimated that an order of magnitude increase in NEO targets could be explored for the same mission cost compared to the SOA.
RAMA would enable this by removing the need to launch all spacecraft subsystems and instead converting the asteroid material in-situ.