How does NASA technology benefit life on Earth? It probably has an impact in more ways than you think! Since 1976, our Spinoff program has profiled nearly 2,000 space technologies that have transformed into commercial products and services. In celebration of Spinoff’s 40th year of publication, we’ve assembled a collection of spinoffs that have had the greatest impact on Earth.
Take a look and see how many you utilize on a regular basis:
Digital Image Sensors
Whether you take pictures and videos with a DSLR camera or a cell phone, or even capture action on the go with a device like a GoPro Hero, you’re using NASA technology. The CMOS active pixel sensor in most digital image- capturing devices was invented when we needed to miniaturize cameras for interplanetary missions. This technology is also widely used in medical imaging and dental X-ray devices.
Enriched Baby Formula
While developing life support for Mars missions, NASA-funded researchers discovered a natural source for an omega-3 fatty acid previously found primarily in breast milk that plays a key role in infant development. The ingredient has since been added to more than 90% of infant formula on the market and is helping babies worldwide develop healthy brains, eyes and hearts.
NASTRAN is a software developed by our engineers that performs structural analysis in the 1960s. Still popular today, it’s been used to help design everything from airplanes and cars to nuclear reactors and even Disney’s Space Mountain roller coaster.
Food Safety Standards
Looking to ensure the absolute safety of prepackaged foods for spaceflight, we partnered with the Pillsbury Company to create a new, systematic approach to quality control. Now known as Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP), the method has become an industry standard that benefits consumers worldwide by keeping food free from a wide range of potential chemical, physical and biological hazards.
Neutral Body Posture Specifications
What form does the human body naturally assume when all physical influences, including the pull of gravity, stop affecting it? We conducted research to find out using Skylab, America’s first space station, and later published specifications for what it called neutral body posture. The study has informed seat designs in everything from airplanes and office chairs to several models of Nissan automobiles.
Advanced Water Filtration
We recently discovered unexpected sources of water on the moon and Mars, but even so, space remains a desert for human explorers, and every drop must be recycled and reused. A nano filter devised to purify water in orbit is currently at work on Earth, in devices that supply water to remote villages as well as in a water bottle that lets hikers and adventurers stay hydrated using streams and lakes.
Wind-tunnel testing at our Langley Research Center played a key role in the development of Speedo’s LZR Racer swimsuit, proving which materials and seams best reduced drag as a swimmer cuts through the water. The swimsuit made a splash during its Olympic debut in 2008, as nearly every medal winner and world-record breaker wore the suit.
When plants grow, they release a gas called ethylene that accelerates decay, hastening the wilting of flowers and the ripening of fruits and vegetables. Air circulation on Earth keeps the fumes from building up, but in the hermetically sealed environment of a spacecraft, ethylene poses a real challenge to the would-be space farmers. We funded the development of an ethylene scrubber for the International Space Station that has subsequently proved capable of purifying air on Earth from all kinds of pathogens and particulates. Grocery stores use it to keep produce fresh longer. It’s also been marketed for home use and has even been embraced by winemakers, who employ the scrubber to keep aging wine in barrels free from mold, mildew and musty odors.
Scratch-Resistant, UV-Reflective Lenses
Some of the earliest research into effective scratch-resistant coatings for prescription and sunglass lenses drew from work done at Ames Research Center on coatings for astronaut helmet visors and plastic membranes used in water purification systems. In the 1980s, we developed sunlight-filtering lenses to provide eye protection and enhance colors, and these lenses have found their way into sunglasses, ski goggles and safety masks for welders.
An Apollo-era partnership with Black & Decker to build battery-operated tools for moon exploration and sample collection led to the development of a line of consumer, medical and industrial hand-held cordless tools. This includes the popular Dustbuster cordless vacuum.
To see even more of our spinoff technologies, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/offices/oct/40-years-of-nasa-spinoff
Make sure to follow us on Tumblr for your regular dose of space: http://nasa.tumblr.com
Wow all this from pure and good NASA and not one real photo of MotherEarth?