Keeping up with the whirlwind of politics can be exhausting, so let’s take a minute to step back and look at some lighter fare in the world of discovery, namely NASA and its many contributions to humankind.
NASA made headlines earlier this week by announcing the discovery of 7 Earth-size planets orbiting in the hospitable zone of a dwarf star, offering the potential for liquid water, and thus life, to exist there. The system is the first of its kind; never have so many potentially habitable planets been found around a single star.
The story emphasizes NASA’s role in expanding our knowledge of the universe, and space exploration is certainly what they’re best known for. When you think of NASA you probably imagine the shuttle program or the space station, but they are responsible for so much more, including items we use down here on Earth. In an effort to highlight NASA’s importance in our every day lives, NASA Spinoff outlines commercial technologies developed as direct results of NASA innovations. The list is released annually, and the technologies now number in the thousands, with advances benefiting health care, transportation, food production, and even recreation.
Below are just a few technologies that were either created by NASA, or derived from their research:
- Artificial limbs
- CMOS image sensors – found in cell phone cameras
- CO2 recovery system – used in beer brewing
- Cordless tools – including the Dust Buster
- Firefighter gear
- Freeze drying
- Golf club improvements
- Infrared thermometers
- Memory foam
- MRI advancements
- Pavement grooving – increases traction and reducing hydroplaning
- Radial tire improvements –
- Scratch-resistant lenses
- Solar power
- Temperature regulating fabrics
- UV protection for sunglasses
- Water purification systems
… and many, many more. When NASA’s achievements are viewed through the context of their resources, they become even more impressive. With a 2016 budget of around $19.3 billion, NASA made up less than half a single percent of our nation’s federal budget. Despite their proportionally small allocation of government funds, they’ve paved the way for leaders in medicine, energy, computers, and even privatized space travel. So next time you curl up on your memory foam mattress or snap a picture with your cellphone, thank NASA. Then try to imagine what technologies come next on this planet or others; odds are NASA will have a hand in developing them.
NASA Spinoff: Explore technologies with NASA origins. 50 are highlighted each year.
NASA Visions of the Future: Vacation posters for discovered planets.