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NASA releases model blueprints of spacecrafts, planets and asteroids for 3D printer enthusiasts

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NASA has released new blueprints for spacecraft, as well as planets and asteroids. These are not plans showing how to construct your own Mars rover. Instead, they allow users a chance to print models, up to four inches long, of the vehicles and astronomical bodies on 3D printers.

Stereolithography is used to produce the models and the blueprints are available in STL format.

A total of 21 virtual blueprints were released by the space agency. Spaceship models include the Cassini probe, currently orbiting around Saturn, as well as the highly-successful planet-hunting Kepler observatory. The space agency even reached into the pioneering days of the early 1970's, to develop a blueprint for the Pioneer spacecraft. Launched in 1972, Pioneer 10 became the first spacecraft built by humans to visit Jupiter.

With gravitational assistance from the giant planet, the spacecraft also became the first man-made object to achieve the escape velocity needed to leave the solar system, although it has not yet done so. Voyager 1, launched in 1977, may be the first object to leave our family of planets, as researchers are still debating whether that vehicle remains within our local retinue of planets. The Voyager spacecraft is also available as a download from the NASA website.

Space enthusiasts with a fondness for Mars are able to create scale models of Gale Crater, where the Curiosity rover touched down, as well as Valles Marineris, also known as the Mariner Valley. This massive feature of interconnected canyons was first discovered by the Mariner spacecraft more than four decades ago.

Vesta, one of the largest asteroids in the solar system, can also be produced using the blueprints now available from NASA. This model comes as a pair of files, directing the manufacture of northern and southern poles of the rocky body.

"Moon Nearside Farside" is one of the more unusual models in the new collection. This blueprint produces a pair squares, each just over three inches in size (at the default setting). These patches reproduce a typical patch of surface on either side of the moon, to contrasts differences between each face. The near side of the moon, facing Earth, is much smoother than the dark side, due to the action of large lava flows that occurred billions of years in the past.

NASA maintains a large library of virtual 3D models of astronomical bodies and spacecraft, so additional designs may become available in future updates to the collection.

Operators of 3D printers who wish to download the model spacecraft and astronomical bodies can find them on the model website.

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