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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