Since NASA started nearly 60 years ago, they have been at the forefront of innovation and technologies which better our daily lives. NASA’s mission has always been exploration and understanding of the solar system and beyond, their technologies are bound to make it into the public’s hand. You may never leave your foot print on the moon, experience the effects of near zero gravity, or strap into a chair sitting atop 1000’s of tons of rocket fuel, but here is a list of NASA technologies that have made it into our lives some way or another.
People living in colder climates can thank NASA for a lower heating bill this winter. One of the hurdles NASA needed to overcome during the Apollo missions was separating astronauts from the cold (and hot) vacuum of space as well as the intense heat of reentry into Earth’s atmosphere and that led directly to the improvement of insulation and the efficiency of our homes back here on Earth. It has also made its way into camping and sporting goods as well first responders assisting people in colder climates.
That great nights sleep you got laying on your Tempurpedic mattress, another invention straight from NASA. When sending people to the moon in the 1960 and 70’s, NASA needed a way to increase comfort of the astronauts during lift off and landing. The polyurethane-silicon material was the perfect response to reduce painful pressure points by spreading the astronauts weight evenly, providing a much more comfortable seat for the high g-forces felt on lift off and landing.
While NASA didn’t invent the vision correcting lens, they were responsible for the plastics that are used today. NASA needed a lighter, cheaper and safer alternative to glass for items such as helmet visors and space craft windows. One disadvantage to plastics is it didn’t always have as strong a resistance to scratching as glass, but NASA’s researches developed not only scratch resistant lenses but lenses that stand up to and protect against UV radiation as well.
Water is an absolute necessity for life. With the weight of water and the astronomical(pun intended) cost send anything to space, NASA needed to come up with new ways to provide astronauts with a reliable and clean water supply. The filtration techniques used by NASA can be seen in millions of homes and even in the hands of millions of people around the world now that we have bottle sized water purification methods.
Environmental Research Aircraft and Sensor Technology was formed by NASA with a goal of building a high altitude unmanned aircraft with the ability to stay aloft for days. A single crystal silicon solar cell was designed that was not only lighter but offered up to 50% more power than traditional cells. As a result, solar power because much more efficient and cheaper for the public to use and now million of homes are reducing their need for conventional means of power production.
While NASA didn’t invent the smoke detector, their need for a rapid and accurate detection of fire in the high oxygen environment of Skylab has led to the most reliable smoke detector. NASA partnered with Honeywell Corporation in the 1970’s to come up with such innovations as an adjustable sensitivity setting to reduce false alarms to self charging nickel cadmium batteries.
LED’s (light emitting diodes)
LED’s are used in countless applications, from small clock radios to the largest of jumbo-tron displays, growing plants in space and here on Earth and now in the medical industry. LED’s were used on the Space Station as a way to grow plants without using a large amount of power, researchers at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, AL discovered that cells exposed to the near-infrared light from LED’s would grow 150 to 200% faster than cells not exposed to the light. This has directly influenced medical breakthrough in wound healing as well as a reduction of suffering in patients who have undergone chemotherapy and radiation treatment.
Research and developments made at the Goddard Space Flight Center in the 1980’s led to a blood sugar level monitoring device that could also release insulation into the wearers body when needed. Researchers on the Mars Viking missions believed that long-term space travel would require monitoring and maintaining astronauts health during long space flights. Since then, the insulin pump has helped diabetics maintain healthy blood sugar levels.
Adam Kissiah Jr., an engineer working at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, used his knowledge of NASA’s advancements in electronic sensing systems to help come up with a revolutionary new form of hearing aids. Instead of merely amplifying sounds, he helped develop an implant that transformed sound into digital pulses that were then used to stimulate the auditory nerves, sending sound signals to the brain. Adams own hearing impairment led him to work with a company called Biostim to build and market the device.
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