The items were sent to Earth in February on the SpaceX Dragon. The scientists will now compare the ground controls to the flight parts.

Before the 3-D printer was launched to the space station, it made an identical set of parts. Engineers will put both the space samples and ground control samples under a microscope and through a series of tests.

Project engineers will perform durability, strength and structural tests on both sets of printed items and even put them under an electron microscope to scan for differences in the objects.

The items in space were manufactured as part of the 3-D Printing in Zero-G Technology Demonstration on the space station to show that additive manufacturing can make a variety of parts and tools in space.

These early in-space 3-D printing demonstrations are the first steps toward realising an additive manufacturing, print-on-demand "machine shop" for long-duration missions and sustaining human exploration of other planets.

In-space manufacturing technologies like 3-D printing will help NASA explore Mars, asteroids, and other locations.

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