The International Space Station is celebrating it’s 20 years since its first section was launched into orbit on Nov. 20, 1998.
In the resupply mission launched this Saturday, the station is getting a novel present: a hybrid recycler and 3D-printer that melts plastics down to create new tools.
The “Refabricator,” as it’s called, real value to the ISS could lie in longer exploration missions. On journeys when the ISS is no longer close enough to Earth to regularly get new tools and equipment, the Refabricator could help transform unneeded parts into needed ones.
“Without a recycling capability, a large supply of feedstock would need to be stowed onboard for long-duration exploration missions,” NASA’s website says.