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The extraordinary advantages of a weightless laboratory have fascinated scientists for decades. That’s because observing phenomena and processes in microgravity conditions can help prepare the field for deep-space human explorations and provide knowledge to improve the quality of life on Earth. Microgravity offers an ideal environment to explore the basics of many types of scientific research and can hold the key to unlocking the full potential of 3D printing. Without the distortion experienced on Earth, investigators can gain insight into the inner workings of physical and biological systems, leading to the advancement of additive manufacturing (AM) technology in orbit.
For years, researchers have performed studies in microgravity. Before the National Space Laboratory of the International Space Station (ISS) became a platform for research in orbit, space agencies relied solely on other means. These included drop towers, suborbital space flights, artificial microgravity simulators, and, particularly, on parabolic flights on Earth that can be tuned to allow for zero gravity or reduced gravity levels like those found on the surface of the Moon or Mars. Many of these innovative and viable options have been around since the 1950s, but are only limited to short continuous spans of microgravity that can only …
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