The application of photonics to astronomy offers major advantages in the area of highly-multiplexed spectroscopy, especially when applied to extremely large telescopes. These include the suppression of the near-infrared night-sky spectrum [J. Bland-Hawthorn et al, Opt. Express 12, 5902 (2004), S. G. Leon-Saval et al, Opt. Lett. 30, 2545 (2005)] and the miniaturisation of spectrographs so that they may integrated into the light-path of individual spatial samples [J. Bland-Hawthorn et al, Proc SPIE 6269, 62690N (2006)]. Efficient collection of light from the telescope requires multimode optical fibres and three-dimensional photonic devices. We propose ultrafast laser inscription (ULI) [R. R. Thomson et al, Opt. Express 15, 11691 (2007)] as the best technology to fabricate 3D photonic devices for astrophotonic applications. © 2008 Optical Society of America.