Sunday, March 8, 2015

Space Toys

A company for the creation of toys uniquely suited for the environment of space.

While the beauty of space is awe inspiring, when you live there for long periods of time it starts to lose its charm. Diversions for space travelers will have to become an industry. Toys and games will need to be created which tourists and explorers can enjoy while locked inside of a can or bubble.

So what would a space toy look like? Well, the simplest is a ball. Astronauts in the ISS have used balls as entertainment in the zero-g environment for years. While entertaining space-ball will lose its novelty, especially to people who are watching it. And in an industry where pubic opinion will have huge sway, it is important to create a "Space Experience" that can't be replicated. Catch in space is still just catch.

So any kind of space toy must be able to exist only in space, otherwise the romance and desire is gone from those who are not a part of it.

So, what can occur in a weightless environment that can't anywhere else. The first thing is structures. Gossamer creations can exist in space that would collapse on earth. A building set made of straws could be an option. Or perhaps a strategy game, such at dominoes, where players attempt to limit the movies of other players. Perhaps a dynamic game where players set certain pieces in motion without disrupting others. Or maybe instead of using a board, each space is a separate piece that floats in midair. Anything that utilizes the 3-D, floating experience of space.

Astronauts insert a GoPro into a bubble of water for fun
Now, in the current space environment of high launch costs and no-frills design, a toy may not be high on the shopping list. This is founded. Given the choice between a toy or a tool many will choose the tool when going to space. The weight of even a few pounds of toys or games costs thousands of dollars to launch.

Fortunately, it is no longer necessary to launch toys. They can be beamed to orbit. Made-In-Space recently sent a 3-D printer to the ISS that has been making plastic tools and spare parts for several months. It would be so simple to just e-mail a set of space Legos.

3-D printing will allow crews of space missions to not only create necessary parts and tools but also a little entertainment with no launch cost. And when the toy becomes boring it can be melted down and turned into something else.

Because of technologies like 3-D printing space toys are something that can be created today. A high school kid with Google Sketch-up could create something that could be sold to the astronauts on the ISS tomorrow.

Space toys will be a low-cost-of-entry business. And, at this point, there is no competition because no one has really considered it. But it will be an industry as tourism heats up in coming years. Plus explorers on long missions to Mars will love to have an inventory of "made for space" entertainment that they can download when they want it, play with it, and then turn into a spare part.

Anyone with some time and creativity can create a business that would never have to have inventory, but would help to support the psychological wellness of many space missions in the future. Maybe by just creating a 3-D printable space chess set.

Below Astronaut Chris Hadfield demonstrates a dart game the astronauts created, and tries a game designed by the Mythbusters, Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman.

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