A NASA research program aimed at improving crash protection for airplane passengers gave impetus to the development of a cushioning material that is now used in Space Shuttle seats as well as in many commercial applications.
With the idea of developing a new airline seat to provide better impact protection and comfort during long flights, NASA Ames Research Center developed an open-cell polyurethane-silicon plastic foam that takes the shape of impressed objects but returns to its original shape even after 90 percent compression. There is no shock or bounce on sudden impact; a three-inch foam pad has the ability to absorb the impact of a 10-foot fall by an adult. The foam is temperature-sensitive, softening as it warms and getting firmer as it cools. By distributing body weight and pressure evenly over the entire contact area, this material offers better impact protection in an accident and also enhances passenger comfort on long flights.
Commercial application was initially developed by one of the inventors under the name Tempur Foam. Numerous spinoffs of the original technology include orthopedic support cushions used in wheelchairs and other medically-related support applications; use in sports equipment, such as helmets; and even use in the furniture industry as mattresses and cushions.
This Space Technology Hall of Fame technology inductee is also a Certified Space Technology (www.tempurpedic.com).
To learn more about the Space Certification Program visit www.spacecertification.org.