Not too long ago DARPA and NASA began hosting symposiums to discuss the possibility of interstellar travel. The brightest minds in the fields of technology, science, philosophy, sociology and economics all gathered to determine what it would take to build a 100 Year Starship.
While some proposed massive spaceships reminiscent of the Starship Enterprise, others advocated a different way to explore the cosmos.
Self-replicating spacecraft, also known as von Neumann probes, is one of the most far-out and fascinating concepts in spacecraft design. Essentially, a von Neumann probe is a small ship that contains all of the information it needs to recreate itself once it reaches its destination. Acting like a virus, a von Neumann probe would land on a distant planet or asteroid and begin to gather the material needed to build a replica of itself. Once the first replica was complete, it too would begin the same process, exponentially growing our fleet of explorers.
Now, you may be asking yourself what’s all this got to do with 3D Printing. My honest response – nothing just yet. But Von Neumann probes might need technology like today’s 3D printers, so maybe today’s technology will lead to greater exploration of our galaxy in the near and distant future.
But don’t take my word for it. Distinguished physicist Michio Kaku also thinks pretty highly of the potential for these self-replicating craft.
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