NASA offers free 3D models of satellites, probes and planets for 3D printing and animation projects

Mars' Gale Crater model (Image: NASA).

NASA has released 21 files for free that can be used by 3D printers to create models of satellites, probes, planetary formations – even asteroids.

These sit alongside a wider selection of 3D models of space-related objects and craft, which are available in a variety of formats from 3ds to Blender – though there appears to be no rhyme or reason as to which models are in which format. 

The Voyager probe model (Image: NASA).

The files, which come in the .stl (stereolithography) format, can be used to create models that are about 4 inches (100 mm) in the longest dimension.

The models include 15 NASA spacecraft, from the Cassini, Mars Odyssey and Voyager probes to crater formations on Mars and the surface of the dark side of the moon.

One of the more fascinating models is a topographic model of a portion of Mars' Valles Marineris canyon, derived from data collected by the MOLA altimeter onboard NASA's Mars Global Surveyor mission.

The Mars Odyssey probe model (Image: NASA).

Another set of two .stl files demonstrate the differences between the near and far side of Earth's Moon. "The near side is smoother due to large lava flows that filled in many craters billions of years ago," NASA explains on its website.

Printed at their default size (8cm across), the Moon models cover an area approximately 400km on a side at a scale of 5 million to one (1 cm = 50 km ).

Another set of files allows users to print out the northern and southern hemispheres of Vesta, which at 326 miles in diameter is one of the largest asteroids in the Solar System.


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