Memory foam mattresses have appeared on the sleep scene with
real gusto after being converted from space shuttle seats into bed
appliances, to celebrate their transition into a mattress, Rachel
Swaby of Gizmodo reviews what she describes as NASA's butt
protector.


There are very few products that can claim to have such
illustrious origins. The memory foam
mattress
started life in the head of NASA's Charles Yost, who
was commissioned to design a seat material for space missions to
make the flight experience as comfortable as possible. The extreme
vibrations and turbulent conditions made regular seats rather
uncomfortable, and so the engineer looked for an alternative to
conventional materials.


Yost had been at the space agency for over four years, previously
working on creating a recovery system for the Apollo command
module. This was a project that also prompted him to create a new
material, which he invented by feeding gas into a polymer matrix.
This resulted in a foam containing billions of open cells that were
solid but sometimes acted like liquid. They moved in completely
unique ways, being able to reorganise when compressed.


The design was named 'slow spring back foam' by Yost, and found
that the cells were sensitive to heat. This property meant that it
had an amazing ability to mould to the shape of a person, which
spurred ideas for further projects using the material, which they
later called 'Tempur foam'.


In 1989, during a ceremony inducting the foam into the Space Hall
of Fame, co-inventor Chuck Kubokawa described just how well
the stuff cushioned impact: "We crash-tested several seats at the
Civil Aeromedical Institute in Oklahoma City to validate them for
impact survival, and we found the foam was good for 36 Gs. The seat
can out-survive the aircraft in a crash."


The mattress was then released
into the public domain, originally used for things that were seat
related. Amusement park rides, horseback saddles, archery targets
and furniture all started to use the innovative material, and it
was some time until the potential was realised in the mattress
world.


Once it was engineered to fit mattress manufacturing, it became a
huge success. It offered a different way of sleeping, with
mattresses tailor made to fit personal body shapes. For those who
struggle with conventional mattresses, or want to try something
new, it is seriously worth considering a material that is fit for
spaceshuttles.


Posted by Michael Ewing ADNFCR-1744-ID-801331619-ADNFCR