Senator Tom Coburn, R-Okla. has come out with his annual “wastebook” of government programs that he feels are wasteful spending. Top of the list, according to a December 17, 2013 story in Politico, is a nearly $125,000 NASA grant to develop a 3-D printed pizza.
“NASA gave a $124,955 grant to Arjun Contractor, a mechanical engineer with a small company hoping to build a 3-D pizza printer as part of space-exploration mission supplies. However, NASA scientists say the research will take time, and it could be years before the technology becomes feasible.”
The 3-D pizza printer is part of a technology development program to create technology to create food for astronauts on long duration space missions using powdered ingredients. The idea is that this technology would help keep astronauts fed without having to bring actual packaged food with them on voyages to Mars or long stays on the lunar surface.
This is not the first time Coburn has inveighed against NASA and pizza. The space agency’s Advanced Food Technology Project made the 2012 “wastebook.” The project was geared toward developing food items that would have a shelf life of three to five years.
Coburn’s argument against NASA pizza is that while it is geared toward feeding astronauts on their way to and from Mars, he believed that such expeditions will likely never happen because of budget constraints. In other words, even though eventual expeditions to Mars have been supported by presidents and congresses of both parties, Coburn is betting that American decline in the area of space exploration is irreversible, hence research on space food will not be needed.