Boosting NASA’s Budget Will Help Fix Economy: Neil deGrasse Tyson



 Reinvigorating space exploration in the United States will require not only boosting NASA’s budget but also getting the public to understand how pushing the boundaries of the space frontier benefits the country’s innovation, culture and economy, said renowned astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson.

“Space is a $300 billion industry worldwide,” Tyson said. “NASA is a tiny percent of that. [But] that little bit is what inspires dreams.”

He spoke about how space has influenced culture — ranging from how the fins on early rockets inspired fins on automobiles in the 1950s, to how the Apollo 8 mission’s iconic picture taken in 1968 of Earth rising above the horizon of the moon led to a greater appreciation for our planet and the need to protect it. Yet, many people outside the space community see itas a special interest group, Tyson said.

“Innovation drives economy,” he said. “It’s especially been true since the Industrial Revolution.”

Tyson advocated doubling NASA’s budget — which President Barack Obama set at $17.7 billion in his 2013 federal budget request — and then laid out a different approach to space exploration that he called somewhat “unorthodox.” Rather than focusing on one destination at a time, Tyson promoted building a core fleet of launch vehicles that can be customized for a variety of missions and for a range of purposes.

“We’re kind of doing that now, but let’s do that as the focus,” Tyson said. “One configuration will get you to the moon. Another will get you to a Lagrangian point. Another will get you to Mars.”

Having an available suite of launch vehicles will open up access to space for a wider range of purposes, which will, in turn, benefit the country’s economy and innovation.

Tyson compared it with the country’s system of interstates, which helped connect cities across the country and made travel more efficient.

“When Eisenhower came back from Europe after he saw the [German] autobahn, and how it survived heavy climactic variation and troop maneuvers, he said, ‘I want some of that in my country,'” Tyson explained. “So he gets everyone to agree to build the interstate system. Did he say, ‘you know, I just want to build it from New York to L.A., because that’s where you should go?’ No. The interstate system connects everybody in whatever way you want. That’s how you grow a system.”

Furthermore, this type of capability can be used for a myriad of purposes, including military endeavors, science missions, commercial expeditions and space tourism.

“Whatever the needs or urges — be they geopolitical, military, economic — space becomes that frontier,” Tyson said. “Not only do you innovate, these innovations make headlines. Those headlines work their way down the educational pipeline. Everybody in school knows about it. You don’t have to set up a program to convince people that being an engineer is cool. They’ll know it just by the cultural presence of those activities. You do that, and it’ll jump-start our dreams.”


Energy Servers Deliver Clean, Affordable Power

Imagine you are about to be dropped in the middle of a remote, inhospitable region—say the Kalahari Desert. What would you want to have with you on your journey back to civilization? Food and water, of course, but you can only carry so much. A truck would help, but what would you do when it runs out of gas? Any useful resources would have to be portable and—ideally—sustainable.

Astronauts on future long-term missions would face similar circumstances as those in this survivalist scenario. Consider, for example, a manned mission to explore the surface of Mars. Given the extreme distance of the journey, the high cost of carrying cargo into space, and the impossibility of restocking any supplies that run out, astronauts on Mars would need to be able to “live off the land” as much as possible—a daunting proposition given the harsh, barren Martian landscape. Not to mention the lack of breathable air. Another consideration is fuel; spacecraft might have enough fuel to get to Mars, but not enough to return. The Moon is like a day trip on one tank of gas, but Mars is a considerably greater distance.

In the course of planning and preparing for space missions, NASA engineers consistently run up against unprecedented challenges like these. Finding solutions to these challenges often requires the development of entirely new technologies. A number of these innovations—inspired by the extreme demands of the space environment—prove to be solutions for terrestrial challenges, as well. While developing a method for NASA to produce oxygen and fuel on Mars, one engineer realized the potential for the technology to generate something in high demand on Earth: energy

In the course of planning and preparing for space missions, NASA engineers consistently run up against unprecedented challenges like these. Finding solutions to these challenges often requires the development of entirely new technologies. A number of these innovations—inspired by the extreme demands of the space environment—prove to be solutions for terrestrial challenges, as well. While developing a method for NASA to produce oxygen and fuel on Mars, one engineer realized the potential for the technology to generate something in high demand on Earth: energy.

K.R. Sridhar was director of the Space Technologies Laboratory at the University of Arizona when Ames Research Center asked him to develop a solution for helping sustain life on Mars. Sridhar’s team created a fuel cell device that could use solar power to split Martian water into oxygen for breathing and hydrogen for use as fuel for vehicles. Sridhar saw potential for another application, though. When the NASA Mars project ended in 2001, Sridhar’s team shifted focus to develop a commercial venture exploring the possibility of using its NASA-derived technology in reverse—creating electricity from oxygen and fuel.

On the surface, this sounds like standard hydrocarbon fuel cell technology, in which oxygen and a hydrocarbon fuel such as methanol flow into the cell where an electrolyte triggers an electrochemical reaction, producing water, carbon dioxide, and electrons. Fuel cells have provided tantalizing potential for a clean, alternative energy source since the first device was invented in 1839, and NASA has used fuel cells in nearly every mission since the 1960s. But conventional fuel cell technology features expensive, complicated systems requiring precious metals like platinum as a catalyst for the energy-producing reaction. Sridhar’s group believed it had emerged from its NASA work with innovations that, with further development, could result in an efficient, affordable fuel cell capable of supplying clean energy wherever it is needed.

In 2001, Sridhar’s team founded Ion America and opened research and development offices on the campus of the NASA Research Park at Ames Research Center. There, with financial backing from investors who provided early funding to companies like Google, Genentech, Segway, and, the technology progressed and began attracting attention. In 2006, the company delivered a 5-kilowatt (kW) fuel cell system to The Sim Center, a national center for computational engineering, at The University of Tennessee Chattanooga, where the technology was successfully demonstrated. Now called Bloom Energy and headquartered in Sunnyvale, California, the company this year officially unveiled its NASA-inspired technology to worldwide media fanfare.

Product Outcome

“NASA is a
for encouraging innovation.
It’s all about
problems that
are seemingly unsolvable.”

Bloom Energy’s ES-5000 Energy Server employs the planar solid oxide fuel cell technology Sridhar’s team originally created for the NASA Mars project. At the core of the server are square ceramic fuel cells about the size of old fashioned computer floppy disks. Crafted from an inexpensive sand-like powder, each square is coated with special inks (lime-green ink on the anode side, black on the cathode side) and is capable of producing 25 watts—enough to power a light bulb. Stacking the cells—with cheap metal alloy squares in between to serve as the electrolyte catalyst—increases the energy output: a stack about the size of a loaf of bread can power an average home, and a full-size Energy Server with the footprint of a parking space can produce 100 kW, enough to power a 30,000-square-foot office building or 100 average U.S. homes.

Solid oxide fuel cells like those in Bloom’s Energy Server operate at temperatures upwards of 1,800 °F. The high temperatures, efficiently harnessed by the Bloom system’s materials and design, enable the server to use natural gas, any number of environmentally friendly biogasses created from plant waste, or methane recaptured from landfills and farms. Fuel is fed into the system along with water. The high temperatures generate steam, which mixes with the fuel to create a reformed fuel called syngas on the surface of the cell. As the syngas moves across the anode, it draws oxygen ions from the cathode, and an electrochemical reaction results in electricity, water, and only a small amount of carbon dioxide—a process that according to Bloom is about 67-percent cleaner than that of a typical coal-fired power plant when using fossil fuels and 100-percent cleaner with renewable fuels. The server can switch between fuels on the fly and does not require an external chemical reformer or the expensive precious metals, corrosive acids, or molten materials required by other conventional fuel cell systems.

The technology’s “plug and play” modular architecture allows users to generate more power by simply adding more servers, resulting in a “pay as you grow” scenario in which customers can increase their energy output as their needs increase. The Bloom Energy Server also offers the benefits of localized power generation; the servers are located on site and off the grid, providing full-time power—as opposed to intermittent sources like solar and wind—without the inefficiencies of transmission and distribution, Bloom says. Future servers may even return to the original NASA function of using electricity to generate oxygen and hydrogen. The company envisions feeding electricity from wind or solar power into its servers along with water to produce storable hydrogen and oxygen. The server could then use the stored gasses to generate electricity during cloudy, low-wind, and nighttime conditions. Stored hydrogen could even be used to provide fuel for hydrogen-powered cars.

Energy servers at eBay’s corporate campus Bloom Energy Servers, seen here on eBay’s corporate campus, are now providing environmentally friendly, cost-saving energy to a number of Fortune 500 companies.

Bloom quietly installed its first commercial Energy Server in 2008, and since then its servers have generated more than 11 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity, along with a corresponding 14-million-pound reduction in carbon dioxide emissions, which the company says is the equivalent of powering about 1,000 American homes for 1 year and planting 1 million trees. Bloom’s current customers are a who’s-who of Fortune 500 companies, including Google, eBay, Bank of America, The Coca-Cola Company, and FedEx. Bloom says its customers can expect a return on their investment from energy cost savings within 3–5 years, and eBay has already claimed more than $100,000 in savings on electricity expenses.

Sridhar believes it will be another 5 to 10 years before Bloom’s technology becomes cost-effective for home use. At that point, he sees the Bloom Energy Server as a solution for remote and underdeveloped areas in need of power. He says the company’s mission is “to make clean, reliable energy affordable to everyone in the world.”

“One in three humans lives without power,” Sridhar says. “Energy demand exceeds supply.” Just within the United States, 281 gigawatts of new generating capacity—the output of 937 new 300-megawatt power plants—will be necessary by 2025 to meet national energy demands, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The Bloom Energy Server may soon offer an environmentally sound option for meeting that challenge, a solution derived from the demands of space exploration.

“NASA is a tremendous environment for encouraging innovation,” says Sridhar. “It’s all about solving problems that are seemingly unsolvable. After realizing we could make oxygen on Mars, making electrons on Earth seemed far less daunting. We’re grateful to NASA for giving us a challenge with serendipitous impact for mankind.”

Energy Server™ is a trademark of Bloom Energy.


Rocket-Powered Parachutes Rescue Entire Planes

Originating Technology/NASA Contribution

Parachute system
This BRS Aerospace Inc. parachute system, designed for sport aircraft, deploys its chute (contained in the white canister) in less than 1 second, thanks to a solid rocket motor (the black tube on top).

When Boris Popov was 8 years old, he took one of his mother’s sheets and some thread, made a parachute, climbed a tree, and jumped. The homemade chute did little to break Popov’s fall; his father took the disappointed boy aside and said, “Son, you’ve got to start higher.”

Years later in the mid-1970s, recent college graduate Popov was hang gliding over a lake when the boat that was towing him accelerated too quickly, ripping the control bar from his hands. Some 500 feet in the air, Popov’s glider went into a spiral, coming apart as Popov plummeted to the water. As he fell, Popov realized that if he only had some kind of parachute, he could have been saved. Before impact, he promised himself that, if he survived, he would create a solution that would save people in these types of emergency situations.

“BRS is
a classic
example of
taxpayers’ money being spent
on research
that has
translated into
246 lives saved.”

Decades later, the U.S. air transportation system was suffering its own kind of free fall. The terrorist attacks of 9/11 led to stringent security measures that complicated and slowed down air travel. Even as the industry recovered from the effects of the attacks, increased flights and passenger demand strained the National Airspace System (NAS) at levels never before experienced. At the same time, NASA was exploring ways of extending aviation to rural America using smaller general aviation (GA) aircraft and local community airports. The NASA Small Aircraft Transportation System (SATS) project envisioned an on-demand, point-to-point, widely distributed transportation system relying on small aircraft (4-10 passengers) operating out of the Nation’s more than 5,400 public-use landing facilities. With about 98 percent of the population living within 20 miles of at least one such airport, SATS could provide cheaper, faster, and more practical options for business and leisure travel, medical services, and package delivery.

Though the SATS project concluded its research in 2006, the pursuit of a nationwide GA transportation system continues through other initiatives like NASA’s Green Flight Centennial Challenge, scheduled for 2011, which encourages competing teams to maximize fuel efficiency for personal aircraft, as well as reduce noise and improve safety. Technological advances are still necessary, however, to make such a system viable, such as improving the safety of small aircraft. One solution has come in the form of an invention developed by Popov, who having survived his fall, began investigating methods of ballistically deploying parachutes for aircraft in emergency situations. Today, with the help of a NASA partnership, the parachute that Popov wished for when plunging to Earth is saving hundreds of small aircraft pilots from a similar fate.


Popov founded Ballistic Recovery Systems Inc. (now BRS Aerospace) of Saint Paul, Minnesota, in 1980. He formed the company to commercialize his solution to personal aircraft accidents like the one he experienced: a whole aircraft parachute recovery system. Soon BRS was developing parachutes for hang gliders, ultralights, and experimental aircraft, and the company received Federal Aviation Administration certification for a retrofit system for the Cessna 150 GA airplane. The company’s innovative safety solution for small aircraft led to Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contracts with Langley Research Center aimed at advancing the BRS parachute system for use with larger and heavier GA aircraft. The NASA funding helped BRS with the development of thin-film parachutes, continuous reinforcement manufacturing methods that result in stronger parachutes, and smart deployment devices—all of which help overcome one of the main obstacles to whole-aircraft parachute systems for larger vehicles: reducing bulk and weight while maintaining parachute strength.

“You can’t have a 50-gallon drum full of parachute in the back of a Cessna. It’s not going to work,” Popov says. Just as important as the research and development funding for BRS, he says, was NASA’s support of its parachute system.

“One of our primary needs for working with NASA was to promote and encourage the concept of a ballistic parachute on aircraft,” Popov says. “There was a lot of skepticism that this system could even work. NASA was very proactive in creating a safety mentality in general aviation.”

Product Outcome

Parachute arresting the descent of an aircraft
With the help of NASA funding, BRS developed parachutes that have saved hundreds of small aircraft—and their pilots and passengers. Here, a Cirrus SR20’s parachute deploys at over 100 miles per hour, arresting the plane’s descent. BRS parachute systems are standard equipment on Cirrus aircraft.

The BRS parachute system—first featured in Spinoff 2002—is deployed by a solid rocket motor activated when the pilot pulls on the cockpit handle release. The rocket fires at over 100 miles per hour and extracts the parachute in less than 1 second. Thanks to a patented shock attenuation device, the chute opens according to the speed of the aircraft; at high speeds, the chute opens only 25 percent for the first few seconds to reduce airspeed to the point where the chute can open fully and still sustain the opening shock. (The lightweight parachute material has to sustain the force of the rocket deployment, as well as the force of the aircraft.) At low speeds and altitudes, the chute opens quickly and completely to ensure rescue.

The system’s versatility makes it effective in a range of accident situations, from mid-air collisions and structural failure to a spiral dive or stall spin. The parachute arrests the descent of the entire aircraft and deposits the vehicle and its occupants on the ground with a typical impact force equivalent to falling 7 feet, which is largely absorbed by the aircraft’s landing gear and seats. Not only are lives saved, but in many incidents, expensive aircraft are preserved to fly again.

BRS has sold more than 30,000 systems worldwide since its founding. The parachute is now standard equipment on the Cirrus SR20 and SR22 planes, the Flight Design CT light-sport aircraft (LSA), the Piper Aircraft PiperSport LSA, and as an option on the new Cessna 162 Skycatcher. The company is projecting sales of close to $20 million this year.

“Our system is standard equipment on the world’s top selling single-engine aircraft, Cirrus. It’s standard equipment on the world’s top selling LSA, the CT. The number one producer of ultralights has our product as standard equipment. You can see a trend here,” Popov says.

BRS also produces parachute systems for military unmanned aerial vehicles, military cargo parachutes, and military training aircraft recovery parachutes. On training aircraft, if the pilot has to eject, “you basically have a 5,000-pound bomb that could go unpiloted down into a neighborhood,” Popov says. “We, however, can bring down the pilot and trainer aircraft safely to the ground.”

While parachutes for larger aircraft are still in the works, BRS does have a system designed for small jets, and its NASA partnership has provided the company with the technology that may eventually enable parachutes for commercial airlines and jets. In the meantime, Popov welcomes the role NASA has played in helping turn the promise he made to himself that day at the lake into a reality for the 246 people whose lives have been saved by the BRS parachute so far.

“BRS is a classic example of taxpayers’ money being spent on research that has translated into 246 lives saved,” he says. “That’s a justifiable and profound benefit.”

He tells a favorite story about a grandfather flying a Cirrus SR20 over the Canadian Rockies with his grandkids in the back seat. The grandfather lost control of the plane, which became inverted at night in the mountains. “You’re likely not going to recover from that,” Popov says. The grandfather deployed the parachute, and the plane settled gently on the side of mountain, where a rescue helicopter found it the next day. After being hoisted out by a helicopter and flown to a nearby airstrip, they put on a new prop and landing gear and flew the plane out.

“This grandfather thought he may have just killed himself and his grandkids, but when he pulled the handle and felt the parachute deploy, he knew he had just prevented that from happening,” Popov says.

“How many millions of dollars is that worth?”


Aerogels Insulate Against Extreme Temperatures

Originating Technology/NASA Contribution

Crayons on silica aerogel over a flame Hand holding Aerogel
Crayons placed on top of a piece of silica aerogel will not melt from the heat of a flame. Certain types of aerogel provide 39 times more insulation than fiberglass. Aerogel is made from a wet gel that is dried. The substance has been described as feeling like volcanic glass pumice; a very fine, dry sponge; and extremely lightweight Styrofoam.

“When you hold a piece of silica aerogel, it feels otherworldly. If you drop it on a table top, it has an acoustic ring to it. It sounds like a crystal glass hitting the table,” describes George Gould, the director of research and development at Aspen Aerogels Inc.

Similar in chemical structure to glass, aerogels have gas or air in their pores instead of liquid. Developed in the United States nearly 80 years ago by a man named Samuel Stephens Kistler, an aerogel is an open-celled material that is typically comprised of more than 95 percent air. With individual pores less than 1/10,000th the diameter of a human hair, or just a few nanometers, the nanoporous nature of aerogel is what gives it the lowest thermal conductivity of any known solid.

The remarkable characteristics of silica aerogel—low density, light weight, and unmatched insulating capability—attracted NASA for cryogenic insulation for space shuttle and space exploration mission applications. For example, when a shuttle is fueled, it requires more than half a million gallons of cryogenic liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen. To remain a liquid, hydrogen must stay at a cold -253 °C and liquid oxygen must remain at -183 °C. The systems necessary to deliver, store, and transfer these cryogenic liquids call for high-performance insulation technology at all steps along the way and into space.

In 1992, NASA started to pursue the development of a practical form of aerogel. Up until that point, aerogel had always been too fragile to handle in its monolithic (or solid) form, and too time-consuming and expensive to manufacture. The concept for a flexible aerogel material was introduced by James Fesmire, the senior principal investigator of the Cryogenics Test Laboratory at Kennedy Space Center. Fesmire, at that time a mechanical engineer responsible for cryogenic fueling systems design, envisioned an aerogel composite material that would be practical to use, but would still exploit the phenomenal heat-flow-stopping capability provided by the nanoporous aerogel.


Flexible aerogel Flexible aerogel
Aspen Systems Inc. worked with NASA to manufacture a more durable form of aerogel. The flexible material is made by filling the spaces of a fiber web with silica aerogel. Aspen Aerogels Inc. produces nearly 20 million square feet of aerogel material per year and sells it for government, industry, and consumer applications.

Kennedy Space Center awarded Aspen Systems Inc., a research and development firm in Marlborough, Massachusetts, a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)contract to create a flexible, durable, easy-to-use form of aerogel. The world’s first aerogel composite blankets were produced in 1993 as cookie-sized laboratory specimens. Initial testing under cryogenic conditions showed the material to have exceptionally good insulating performance in ambient pressure environments. At that time, standard laboratory test machines were inadequate to fully characterize the material’s very low heat transfer characteristics under cryogenic conditions. A second phase of the SBIR program, a collaborative effort with Kennedy, was awarded in 1994. As part of that collaboration, a cryostat insulation test apparatus was devised for measuring the true thermal performance of the aerogel blankets. This apparatus, Cryostat-1, was able to fully test the material and later became the cornerstone capability for the laboratory at Kennedy.

By 1999, these contracts led to further partnerships, and Aspen Systems developed a manufacturing process with NASA that cut production time and costs, as well as produced a new form of aerogel, a flexible aerogel blanket. To make the new material more useful, the spaces within a web of fiber reinforcement were completely filled with silica aerogel. “It’s a little like an epoxy resin in the polymer composites world. By itself, epoxy resins can make great glue. But if you combine it with fiber, you can make airplanes and helicopters out of it,” says Gould.

To develop and market the revolutionary product, Aspen Systems started Aspen Aerogels Inc. in Northborough, Massachusetts. Since 2001, Aspen Aerogels has been using the same manufacturing process developed in part under the NASA SBIR to provide aerogel to the commercial world. In 2003, Aspen Aerogels received the “R&D 100” award from R&D Magazine. By 2009, the company had become the leading provider of aerogel in the United States and currently produces nearly 20 million square feet of the material per year.

Product Outcome

Shoe insoles with aerogel Shoe insoles with aerogel
A company called Polar Wrap LLC encapsulates the NASA-derived aerogel and uses it in a product called Toasty Feet. These insoles protect people’s feet from both heat and cold.
Mountain climber wearing shoe insoles with aerogel
Mountaineer Ann Parmenter summitted Mt. Everest on May 25, 2006. She said her feet stayed comfortable and warm while wearing just one pair of socks—plus Toasty Feet insoles—inside her climbing boots.

While NASA uses Aspen Aerogels’ product for cryogenic applications such as launch vehicles, space shuttle applications, life support equipment, and rocket engine test stands, there is an array of commercial industrial applications including pipe insulation, building and construction, appliances and refrigeration equipment, trucks and automobiles, as well as consumer applications, such as personal apparel. Most recently, the NASA-derived aerogel has been applied to protect and insulate people’s hands and feet.

Polar Wrap LLC, is a Memphis, Tennessee, company that buys the material from Aspen Aerogels and then applies its own patented process to encapsulate the aerogel and use it in insoles called Toasty Feet. Designed to fit in the bottom of a boot or shoe, Toasty Feet resists heat loss and heat gain. According to the company, sales totaled over a million and a half pairs in 2009. Their line of insoles includes mens, womens, youth, extra cushion, and arch support.

The inventor of the process to encapsulate the aerogel for Polar Wrap was originally looking for insulation for the refrigeration system on his sailboat. When he saw the capabilities of aerogel, he thought the material held promise for the company. The inventor then devised an application for clothing, which resulted in the process now used to make Toasty Feet.

According to Polar Wrap, two people walked the length of the Great Wall of China (a 4,500-kilometer walk that took 6 months) wearing Toasty Feet. A mountaineer climbed Mount Everest using Toasty Feet instead of liner socks and said her feet stayed warm. In addition, an endurance runner who ran a marathon from Death Valley to Mt. Whitney, California, said her feet stayed heat-free while wearing Toasty Feet.

Another company looking for ways to warm feet—and hands—also decided to use Aspen Aerogels’ product. Originals By Weber, of Toms River, New Jersey, is an Internet-based business. The owner, Terrance L. Weber, wanted a way to help people with Raynaud’s disease, a condition that causes the fingers and toes to feel numb and cool in response to cold temperatures or stress. The smaller arteries that supply blood to the skin become narrow, limiting the blood circulation to affected areas.

To keep the blood warm, Weber decided to try applying insulation to the wrists and ankles. After experimenting with several materials, including a fiberglass product, he says, “I chose aerogel because it is thin and lightweight, and almost to the point where you don’t even know it is there.”

Wrist wrap with aerogel Wrist and ankle wrap with aerogel
The Wrist and Ankle Wraps (to the left and above) were made by Originals By Weber to help people with Raynaud’s disease fight painfully cold hands, fingers, feet, and toes. According to the company, ultra-thin aerogel insulation assists in controlling and maintaining blood temperature, and also increases blood flow to the hands and feet.

Encased in nylon, the Wrist and Ankle Wraps are secured with a strap to maintain the normal temperature of the blood as it flows from wrists to hands and fingers, and from ankles to feet and toes. In the course of 6 months, the company has sold about 75 pairs of the product.

In addition to insoles, and wrist and ankle wraps, the NASA-derived product has also made its way into boots. Salomon, a French company that sells sporting products, incorporates aerogel into its Toundra winter boots for men and women. Another French company, Heckel, incorporates aerogel insulation from Aspen Aerogels in its MACPOLAR boots. The company ensures comfort in temperatures as low as -50 °C, and promotes the boots for refrigerated warehouses, oil and gas exploration, snow and ski slope services, mines, transport services, and other harsh winter conditions.

Many new applications are on the horizon for space applications as well. The aerogel blanket material is enabling new ways of designing high-performance systems of all kinds for extreme environments. The atmospheres of Earth, the Moon, and Mars all present unique challenges for controlling and saving energy. With applications across various industries, Gould traces much of aerogel’s commercial success to working with NASA early in the development cycle. “If you can meet NASA’s high expectations for performance and safety requirements, and subsequently make a product that has commercial potential, you are on a great path to delivering goods that are the best in class.”

Toasty Feet™ is a trademark of Polar Wrap LLC.
Styrofoam™ is a trademark of The Dow Chemical Company.