BEHIND THE SCENES:
WHERE DO AIRBAGS COME FROM? NASA TECHNOLOGY TRANSFER
NASA does cool shit. All. The. Time.
One of the coolest thing that they do is share all of the tech developed for the space program to the general public. This is called technology transfer, and it brought us some of the greatest inventions - things like camera phones, scratch resistant lenses, athletic shoes, heat blankets, freeze dried food, ear thermometers, and on...and on...amazing stuff.
In our field, NASA has developed super tough woven textiles since the early years - the first parachutes and space suits in the late 1950's. In 1997, NASA developed a mission-critical airbag for the Mars landing, keeping the space craft safe and comfortable on landing. This same fabric protected the Mars Rovers in 2004.
This is a prototype of the airbag for the Mars Pathfinder lander. Mars Pathfinder was the first mission intended to gather scientific data on the surface of the red planet since the Viking mission in 1976. An unusual, innovative method was used to achieve a soft landing of the spacecraft. On reaching Mars on July 4, 1997, Pathfinder entered the planet's thin atmosphere, was slowed by a parachute and then rockets, and then landed by bouncing on inflated airbags. The artifact consists of an engineering prototype for those airbags. The mission airbags as well as the prototypes were designed and built by JPL for NASA's office of Space Science. The artifact was transferred to NASM by NASA in 1999.