NASA's free 3D model collection lets anyone print spacecraft and asteroids

Not many people realize that in addition to its scientific data and news releases, NASA also shares a substantial amount of free resources on its website: ebooks, children's materials, podcasts, and similar. For those who own a 3D printer, the space agency also provides a vast collection of 3D-printing-ready models of its most popular spacecraft, asteroids, craters, and much more.

The Internet is full of free 3D models to print, but it's not easy to find realistic replicas of NASA's various spacecraft and the many celestial bodies it has observed. If you'd like to print your own miniature version of the Hubble Space Telescope, the Curiosity rover, CubeSats, Cassini, or a number of other spacecraft and satellites, check out NASA's 3D model library.

Anyone can download the files for these objects, which are offered in STL format. You can readily put the files into Cura or whatever software you prefer to turn them into printable files for your particular printer model. After that, it's just a matter of calibrating your 3D printer, plugging in the flash drive with the files, and waiting for the objects to print.

Depending on what you download, you may end up printing several pieces for the model, which you'll then have to assemble yourself. Other models are more simple, though no less detailed, objects that come in a single piece — there are topographic models of things like the Gale Crater that can be printed, painted, and mounted on a wall as decorations, for example.

The files are free to download. NASA's website includes a 3D viewer tool so that you can view the models before downloading to make sure it's what you're looking for. The viewer includes wireframe, solid, and surface angle viewing options. There are currently 113 printable models available in NASA's library.