A race car driver's personal mission will tie together breast cancer awareness and the International Space Station using a zero-g 3D printer and the auction of a very special pink ribbon.
Pippa Mann, whose bright pink and white race car bore the logo of Made In Space for the Indianapolis 500 in May, is extending her partnership with the in-space manufacturing company to beyond the track and all the way to orbit. This October, during Breast Cancer Awareness month, Made In Space will use its commercial 3D printer aboard the station to create a pink ribbon, which will be returned to Earth and auctioned to benefit the Susan G. Komen foundation.
"When they approached me with it, I thought it was one of the coolest ideas I had heard," Mann told collectSPACE in an interview. "We look to try and do unique and interesting things with our partners to activate, and this falls right into that area, so I loved the idea." ['Archinaut' Spacecraft Could Build Huge Structures in Space (Videos)]
Made In Space's Additive Manufacturing Facility (AMF) on board the space station will print the 3 to 4 inch long (8 to 10 cm) ribbon using a special pink material that has been analyzed by NASA for safety. The pink-colored filament will launch on an upcoming resupply mission to the outpost.
"After learning that Pippa auctions off racing equipment to support Susan G. Komen, some of our engineers came up with the idea to manufacture a pink ribbon on orbit," said Andrew Rush, CEO of Made In Space. "We felt like it was such a unique way to support an organization that is doing important work for women and women's health."
Raising awareness to new heights
Mann, who was the only woman among the drivers at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this year, began supporting Susan G. Komen during her second time competing in the Indy500 four years ago.
"My association with Komen first started as an idea to take my traditional red and yellow helmet and turn it pink for the 2013 Indianapolis 500, and allow them to auction it to raise funds," she said. "The next thing I knew we were working on putting together an entirely pink racing program!"
"For me it has become more important to use my platform, and my voice, to do more," said Mann.
Susan G. Komen, founded in 1982, is the largest non-profit funder of breast cancer research outside the U.S. federal government. In 2008, the organization adopted its logo in the form of a pink ribbon, an international symbol of breast cancer awareness.
Like Mann, Made In Space was also interested in using its unique position to help the foundation.
"We were inspired by Pippa's dedication to the Susan G. Komen Foundation. We believe in the foundation's mission and brainstormed ways that we could help support," Rush said in an interview with collectSPACE.
A ribbon like no other
Made In Space's AMF was launched in March 2016 under a partnership with Lowe's Innovation Labs, the "disruptive technology hub" of the Lowe's Home Improvement chain, and the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), the non-profit with responsibility for managing the U.S. National Lab on the International Space Station.
Over the course of its first year in orbit, the AMF was used to print almost 40 different projects, including medical parts for researchers, parts for NASA and customers such as Lowe's, and educational projects for students. A majority of the prints were completed in support of activities aboard the space station.
"We've had a few previous prints that have been focused on inspiring folks on the ground," said Rush. "For example, we manufactured a student-designed multitool for NASA and Future Engineers."
The pink ribbon will be unique though, as it will be the first time a 3D printed object has been created in space for the purpose of fundraising. The ribbon print is being conducted under Made In Space's agreement with CASIS.
"They have expressed great positive support for this effort, in particular, since it is highlighting a good cause in such a unique way. It really serves as an exploration of new ways space-based operations can provide positive impacts for Earth-based causes," explained Rush.
Premium for space print
The 3D printed pink ribbon will belong to Made In Space. Once it is returned to the ground, which is expected within a few months of it being created, the company will retain it until donating it for auction, likely sometime in 2018.
Mann said that it is difficult to predict how much the ribbon will raise, as compared to the $135,000 that she and her campaign has raised over the past two years.
"You can't put a figure on something like this," Mann said. "They key will be trying to get the word out to people who are really interested in this specific item."
"I know that Komen will share it with their supporters, as I will share with mine, but we will need to work with Made In Space to get this ribbon in front of the people who will be really interested in paying a premium for it," she said.
"Breast cancer afflicts so many and has cut off the lives of too many, including the lives of women close to folks at Made In Space," added Rush. "We care deeply about this cause and hope that this collaboration will generate funds that move the needle for breast cancer research."
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