When you’re launching people into space, you need to keep weight down and protection up. Previously, impact-absorbent materials were bulky and heavy, which is why NASA tasked scientists at the Ames Research Center to develop a lightweight, durable impact and pressure support material in the 1960s. The result was memory foam, a polyurethane compound that has an open-cell solid structure to match pressure placed upon it and spring back to its original shape slowly. Since its invention, it’s been used for tons of civilian purposes, most notably mattresses.
Photo credit: Flickr user rosengrant via Creative Commons.