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To understand why Mason Peck, NASA’s chief technologist, was at World Maker Faire New York 2013 (his second Maker Faire), just look and listen to the level of activity behind him in the video above: that energy and enthusiasm is what Peck, and NASA, wants to capture for the US space program.

World Maker Faire NY Video Highlights

MAKE: Live Stage

Live Robot Bugs! Biomimicry in Research and Development

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Maker Interviews

NASA Chief Technologist Mason Peck

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Specifically, NASA is interested in attracting makers to their recently-issued Grand Challenge focused on asteroid research and planetary defense. In Peck’s talk, below, he outlines why the agency wants citizen scientists to focus on this challenge.

This is not just feel good, public relations. NASA wants you!

Peck was also at Maker Faire to encourage participation in NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative. The barriers for getting a project into space are lower than they’ve ever been, and Peck wants makers to take advantage of the opportunity.

Peck, who’s father was a science fiction writer, also clearly enjoys speculating where space exploration could take us — in the next few years, and way off in the distant future.

One promising possibility, Peck predicts, will be fabrication in space using 3D printing. By using raw materials available in space, future explorations would not have to launch heavy equipment and building supplies from earth: 3D printers could create structures using material found on the moon, Mars, or on asteroids.

Something to think about as you are waiting for that two-inch sprocket to print on your current state-of-the-art consumer 3D printer.


An artist’s rendition of Montana State University’s Explorer-1 [Prime] CubeSat. Source: Montana State University, Space Science and Engineering Laboratory.

Watch Peck’s entire inspiring talk on the Maker Faire Innovation Stage here:

Meanwhile, check out our space themed gift guide.

DC Denison

DC Denison

DC Denison is the editor of The Maker Pro Newsletter, which covers the intersection of makers and business. That means hardware startups, new products, and market trends.

The former technology editor of The Boston Globe, DC is also interested in ebook experimentation and content management systems.

One of the places where DC can be found online is Google+ (which I’m adding here only because I want to see if by adding “rel=author” and “rel=me” to those two links I can get Google to display my picture in its search results.)

Hey, it works!



  1. Shawn Eng says:

    I’ve always toyed with the idea of using gyros to steer an asteroid with minimal propellant, just like how satellites use three dimensional gyros for attitude control. Let’s say we launch a landing craft to an asteroid. The craft would have a solar or nuclear powered centrifuge and it would spin a very rigid arm holding a very strong cable with a mass at the end, like a sling. At a certain velocity, the centrifuge would come to an abrupt halt and the mass would continue until it pulled on the tether, the “snap” would alter the course of the asteroid. Maybe I’m missing something fundamental about the conservation of momentum.

    Yes, I thought about putting a metallurgy factory on the asteroid to refine ammunition for a rail gun (not as a weapon) but as a propulsion system. Like standing on a skateboard and firing a machinegun, using the recoil to push you back. But in a asteroid field may shooting hyper-kinetic projectiles for propulsion isn’t a good idea. Just a thought.