By Julia Zorthian
May 11, 2017

How many problems can one material solve? According to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., the answer may well be limitless, thanks to its new 3-D-printed metallic “space fabric,” designed to be especially useful outside Earth’s atmosphere. Among its many possible applications: regulating the temperature of an astronaut’s suit (one side of the textile reflects light, the other absorbs it) and folding into a backup antenna (the metal can be tailored to conduct radio waves). Although it’s still a prototype, creator Raul Polit Casillas says the ultimate goal is to make the “highly adaptable” fabric even more utilitarian by enabling astronauts to custom-print in space.

This appears in the May 22, 2017 issue of TIME.


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