Microwave ovens, satellite television, non-stick cookware and Velcro are just a few of the products brought to us through advancements in the now decades-old space program. Adding to this impressive list of consumer products from outer space is what has come to be referred to as memory foam.

This unique material has been steadily finding its way into all sorts of products including upholstered furniture. But no where has the impact been as big as in the incorporation of memory foam into sleep mattresses.

The development of memory foam mattresses makes sense since the original design intention of the foam was for use by astronauts as a way to sleep in the zero gravity or outer space. As a great example of a successful failure, the foam was never used in space for several very critical reasons, not the least of which was the high levels of chemical out-gassing.

The process of chemical out-gassing introduced levels of chemical contamination that was not very conducive to the clean-room atmosphere of the average manned spacecraft. Materials that are approved for manned spaced flight must meet several critical levels of cleanliness and must be free from residual chemicals and other potentially hazardous substances.

The good news for many sleepers is that memory foam was found to make an excellent material for sleeping right here on planet Earth. Since the nineteen seventies, a search was on to find an appropriate use for this unique and very dense foam. The answer came in the form of several brands of mattresses that incorporated some amount of memory foam into the design. Now memory foam can be found inside the mattress and outside conventional mattresses in the form of add-on pads that can add a layer of foam to almost any sized bed.

Memory foam is quite dense compared to other foam materials and can mold itself to the body in ways that other bedding materials simply can not. There can be vast differences in one manufacturer’s memory foam mattress to that of another manufacturer. The variances can include the over all thickness of the material, hardness, and quality.

The hardness or density of the foam can be compared by looking at the weight per cubic foot of material. Think of a box one foot square in size and imagine the box shape to be a piece of memory foam. There is a big difference in density between material that is two and half pounds per cubic foot and material that is four pounds per cubic foot.

As a general rule the greater the density of the foam, the more expensive the mattress. The overall quality of a memory foam mattress may depend on the other materials used, since the layer of memory foam may only make up three to four inches of the overall thickness of the mattress. Memory foam can be found atop traditional inner spring designs that are than wrapped in latex foam with visco-elastic foam placed on top, all encased in a traditional mattress covering.

The process of selecting a memory foam mattress is the same as selecting conventional bedding set. Give the mattress a thorough test drive keeping in mind that we spend quite a bit of our lives in bed. On average most of us spend well over 20 years of our lives in bed.

Just like everyone who tries out to be an astronaut, not every product developed for the space program actually makes that cut. Visco-elastic memory foam was one of those inventions but luckily, it made the cut in a way that has benefited everyone interested in a good nights sleep and an alternative to the conventional mattress.

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