Transporting supplies has an associated cost depending on the distance traveled, the environment, the nature of the supply … that is why it is surprising to learn that the most expensive supply chain today is barely 388 kilometers long .
Basically because it starts from the surface of the Earth towards the sky, until it reaches the astronauts that inhabit the International Space Station (ISS). This cost is mainly due to gravity and mass and shipping: less than 500 grams can already cost more than 10,000 dollars .
Sending a simple spare part to the ISS is therefore a real headache. The reason is that you have to exceed the so-called "escape velocity", that is, the speed from which you can escape from the gravity of our planet and enter space. Every gram, then, counts, and is a huge waste of fuel .
As if that were not enough, when it comes to the ISS, the most expensive supply chain in history ends up in the most exotic junkyard in the world, as Peter H. Diamandis explains in his book The Future Goes Faster Than You Think :
And since it can take months until it reaches the Space Station, a very significant part of the precious surface area of the ISS is taken up by the cabinets necessary to store all the spare parts.
For this reason, initiatives such as Made in Space have been born, the first company that tries to solve this kind of problems by manufacturing a 3D printer that would work in space:
And this is the reason why, in 2018, when an astronaut broke a finger in the middle of an ISS mission, it was not necessary to order a splint from Earth and wait months for its arrival.