Space porn: These images are (quite literally) out of this world
The small West African nation of Togo is one of the last places you’d expect to find a maker space––a workshop where inventors and tinkerers can work on new projects to their hearts content. But inside the capital city of Lome, there’s a maker space. Woelab bills itself as “Africa’s first space for democratic technology” and it’s home to Kodjo Afate Gnikou. Gnikou’s latest invention was recently unveiled, and it’s amazing: A 3–D printer made from cheap discarded electronics of the kind found all over the world.
Using crowdfunding from Ulule (French–language link), Afate built a workable 3–D printer using less than $100 in parts. Ulule investors provided him with a modest $4000 to develop the low–cost fabricator, and a functional prototype was completed. In his crowdfunding page, Afate compares the potential impact of 3–D printing on society to that of the steam engine in the 19th century.
“My dream is to give young people hope and to show that Africa, too, has its place on the global market when it comes to technology. We are able to create things. Why is Africa always lagging behind when it comes to technology,” the inventor told Euronews.
Woelab’s YouTube page includes numerous examples of the printer in action. Although it is still only a prototype, it has successfully gone through extrusion tests and is functional.
Afate’s 3–D printer, called the W.Afate (The W is for Woelab), is a homebrewed replica of the Prusal Mendel, a popular printer in the United States and Europe. Only, instead of using parts purchased in stores, the W.Afate can be constructed from discarded electronic waste. His $100 3–D printer integrates leftover parts gathered from old computers, printers, and scanners found in local dumping places. A few new parts such as motors had to be purchased, but the vast majority of the 3–D printer was built using repurposed local materials. Much of the W.Afate’s core is based around reused rails and belts from old scanners.
The next step for the W.Afate is participation in NASA‘s International Space Apps Challenge, a competition for technology designed to get mankind to Mars. Afate’s entry is part of a mixed Togolese–French team that is offering proof–of–concept proposals for developing custom–fabricated mechanical equipment parts. In his proposal, Afate writes that his printer model can allow 3–D printers to be created in any environment using already–existing equipment, and that “rather than send its computing waste to the poor countries, why the West would not send them on Mars?”
Africa has a massive electronic waste problem; in promotional materials, Afate pointed out the massive Agbogbloshie toxic electronic waste dump in nearby Ghana. Hundreds of tons of discarded computers and industrial equipment end up at Agbogbloshie each month, with usable spare parts and equipment mixed in with poisonous waste.
NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins
On December 28, 2013, Expedition 38 crew member Mike Hopkins participating in the second of two space walks to replace a degraded pump module on the International Space Station. (NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio is reflected in his helmet!)
The Soyuz TMA-10M
The Soyuz TMA-10M headed towards the International Space Station with crew members from Expedition 37 onboard.
40 years ago the Apollo 8 mission flew up to the moon, orbited it ten times and then returned to Earth. This picture was taken from that flight and shows the Earth as it seemingly rises in similar fashion to a sunrise.
Sunrise from Expedition 36
NASA Flight Engineer Karen L. Nyberg of Expedition 36 took this photo of the sun rising -- a sight they saw nearly 16 times per day due to the speed of the International Space Station's orbit around the earth.
A pair of NanoRacks CubeSats -- nanosattelite spacecrafts carrying experiments -- were launched by Expedition 38.