NASA has been responsible for a large number of technological advancements – including LEDs, memory foam, and freeze drying – and, though their funding has been unfortunately cut, they don’t appear to be slowing much, if at all. Their latest advancement, however, seems more like something out of the distant past. But, don’t let the looks fool you – NASA’s chainmail-like ‘Space Fabric’ is still quite futuristic.
While the appearance might look like woven-together metal, this pliable metallic textile was actually made with 3D printing technology at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. In fact, project head Raul Polit Casillas actually refers to it as ‘4D’ printing due to the fact that they print the material with both geometry and functionality in mind. That functionality, by the way, is three-fold: protecting astronauts and spacecraft from debris impact (like stray meteorites), for capturing objects on the surface of other planets, or as insulation in icy climates like Jupiter’s Europa moon. And that’s just what they’ve come up with so far. The project is still in development, but Polit Casillas hopes to put it into production and use in the near future – potentially even manufacturing it outside of our atmosphere.