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NASA Is Getting Into The Fashion Industry

by Kate Ryan

June 20, 2017
Image via NASA JPL.

When you think of astronauts heading into the great unknown, you probably picture them in puffy white suits and form-fitting Lycra in primary colors. According to sci-fi movies, that is the fashion of space travel. But if NASA’s latest project comes to fruition, astronauts could be clad in modern chain mail.

Thanks to the wonders of 3D-printing technology, designers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab have created a protective fabric that can deflect light while both absorbing and reflecting heat. Those properties alone aren’t new; NASA already uses a variety of materials to protect both spacecrafts and human travelers from inhospitable atmospheres. However, this material can do it all while shape-shifting to meet the unique demands of different bodies. It’s also lightweight, which is crucial when it costs $10,000 to send a single pound to space, Wired reports.

Image via NASA JPL.

Over the past two years, NASA has been refining the fabric, ultimately creating a flexible material that has a reflective geometric pattern on one side and interconnected loops on the other. Despite it looking like chain mail, the fabric is light and easy to manipulate while being just as strong as metal. Its adaptable properties mark the beginning of a 4D-printing era in which materials have multiple uses and reactive abilities (like the ability to adjust to temperature differences). Additionally, astronauts might be able to print more of the material while in space, making it the ultimate galactic fabric. Though, as one of the engineers who worked on the design told Wired, fashion designers could certainly use the material for their art, as well.

Personally, I’d love to see Sen. Kamala Harris don a chain mail power suit, but that’s just my futuristic fashion fantasy. 

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NASA Is Getting Into The Fashion Industry