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Memory Foam History...Astronauts, Racehorses and Bed Sores

By Charles "Chuck" Harmon

With all the advertising about memory foam these days, it's hard to imagine that this material has only been in existence for a little over 30 years.

It's difficult to find an exact date when memory foam first came into being, but it was originally formulated during the early days of manned space flight. Most likely, it was in the mid to late 1960's.

The National Aeronautics & Space Administration, aka. NASA, needed a material that would cushion the astronauts from the unparalleled g-forces of launch and re-entry during space missions.

In response the their request, a material was produced, called visco-elastic memory foam.

I've seen dozens of articles explaining what visco-elastic memory foam means and none of them has the same explanation.

The online dictionary gives no definition for the word visco, but the word is derived from viscous, which means "gummy or pasty." It is a cross between a solid and a liquid.

I think we all know what elastic means, but, again, the definition is, "being able to return to it's original shape after being deformed."

Well...that's enough of the grammar lesson. The point is that this material hadn't existed's unique.

The whole idea, of showing a picture with a hand print, over the top of a memory foam mattress, is to illustrate that this material isn't forcefully pushing against you.

That's why it takes a while for the memory foam to react and slowly return, to it's original shape, once the hand is removed.

The other quality, of visco elastic memory foam, is that it's temperature reactive. When it's heated, it becomes softer and when it's cooled, it becomes firmer.

A body, laying on the memory foam material, will heat it, making it softer under that heated area.

Again, it's not clear whether or not this earlier version of the memory foam material was ever actually used in any space missions.

Some claim that the material off-gassed, producing an odor that couldn't be tolerated in the small quarters of a spacecraft.

Whatever the reason, this material was too expensive to be used in the form of a memory foam mattress or memory foam pillow for the average consumer.

It was not, however, too expensive for use as an aid to recovery for multi-million dollar racehorses who had been injured or were recovering from surgery.

Horses cut off their circulation when they lay down so when horses are recovering, they need to be in the upright position, so that their blood circulation isn't restricted."

This can be very difficult or impossible, because if the injury is to a limb, the horses massive weight is too much for the limb to support.

Laying the horse on a large, thick, slab of memory foam solved this problem.

Because memory foam melts away from where pressure is placed on it, the body of a horse or human can lay on it without restricting the blood flow.

Blood flow is critical, to healing and recovery from surgery, so it makes sense that recovery is greatly enhanced by sleeping on a memory foam mattress.

Of course, it was only a matter of time until someone thought to apply this factor to the human body.

Medical researchers have more money to experiment than consumer businesses, so it was in medical research that memory foam was found to be a great inhibitor to bedsores.

Bedsores occur when the blood supply to the capillaries is restricted over a period of time. Bedsores are also called pressure ulcers.

Since the unique character of memory foam is it's ability to melt away from anywhere that pressure is applied, bed sores are reduced or eliminated.

It's broad use, in the medical field, finally led to the cost effective use of memory foam for consumer mattresses. Now, memory foam mattresses have come into the mainstream in the mattress industry.

Memory foam mattress pricing, for a quality product, in queen size, is usually about $2,000 to $2,500 which is in line with most of the high quality innerspring products.

© 2005 Charles C Harmon Co. All Rights Reserved

About The Author

Charles "Chuck" Harmon is a the author of several articles including The 5 Deadliest Sins Most People Commit When Buying A Memory Foam Mattress...And How To Avoid Them. Get the article at:

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