From Cordless Vacuums to In-flight WiFi, These Innovations From NASA Changed Life on Earth
Why fund NASA? Glad you asked. A mission to Mars will also make Earth a better place to live.
That’s because conquering the laws of physics requires powerful science and an innovative attitude. NASA has brought together some of the best minds on the planet to solve the challenges of space travel. But the technology and inventions which support space exploration often also benefit our daily lives here on Earth.
Here are a only few everyday comforts which relied on rocket scientist to get off the ground.
Hurricane Tracking and Recovery
Hurricanes are a terrible force of nature that can’t really be stopped, but can be managed. Thanks to NASA, satellite and weather monitoring technology we are now able to learn with greater accuracy where a hurricane will strike and make necessary preparations which save lives. Drones, which benefit from NASA technology, are also helping with Hurricane recovery around the world.
Fast WiFi on Your Plane
A lot of the communications technology we rely on daily has been developed thanks to NASA technology helping build our satellite infrastructure. Those satellites help supply in-flight WiFi, too. The space agency is now working on a special ADATS program which supports super-fast data transfers (up to 40 megabits per second.) While this program is intended for applications on X-plane research programs, it might one day trickle down to boost the data transfer rates in the air for commercial flights.
Infrared Ear Thermometers
You can thank NASA for thermometers that no longer require putting poisonous mercury in your mouth. The space agency developed the first aural thermometer with Diatek corporation. It uses infrared astronomy technology to measure the heat emitted by the eardrum, as energy, in the same way that astronomers use infrared to measure the temperature of the stars and planets.
Thanks to NASA’s quest to explore Mars, your car has better radials. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company worked with NASA to develop a special fibrous material which was used on parachute shrouds to soft-land Viking space probes on the surface of Mars. The fibre contains a chain-like molecular structure which makes it five times stronger than steel without added weight. Goodyear realized that the increased strength and durability of this material would have useful applications on the road, and, in 1976, developed a new radial which lasted 10,000 miles longer than others. Viking was not the only collaboration between Goodyear and NASA.
In 2009, a dedicated team of Goodyear engineers and NASA researchers at the NASA John H. Glenn Research Center collaborated on the development of a new airless “Spring Tire” which uses 800 load bearing springs which provides improved traction on rocky surfaces and can bear weight in extreme temperatures without deflating, as pneumatic tires might. While originally developed to fit the needs of NASA’s Lunar Electric rover, Goodyear also saw applications for off-road vehicles here on Earth.
Along with better tires, you can thank NASA for not slipping on sidewalks, steps, parking lots and other public surfaces in bad weather. NASA first developed safety grooving — parallel grooves cut into concrete which increase traction — to address the needs of airports in 1985, ensuring that aircraft could land safely at high speeds and stop sooner.
A Better Night's Sleep
If you own a Temper foam mattress, you are sleeping on NASA technology. This memory foam was first invented at NASA’s Ames Research Center to ensure greater crash protection for passengers in case of an airplane accident. This foam is everywhere now — not just in your bed. You’ll find it in automobiles, motorcycles, horseback saddles, archery targets, and in NASCAR race cars, among others.
More Nutritious Baby Formula
Baby formula is now more nutritious thanks to NASA-sponsored research exploring algae as a recycling agent for deep space travel. Martek Biosciences, which worked with NASA on the program, converted the substance into life’sDHA and life’sARA, which contribute omega-3 and omega-6 rich fatty acids to baby formulas around the world. Beyond baby food, life’sDHA and life’sARA were also approved for use in adult nutrition including things like breakfast cereals, spreadable fats and dressings, cereal bars, and other food supplements.
Cordless Cacuum Cleaners
If you get a special thrill out of using your handy handheld vac to pick up small spills and clean your car interior, credit NASA for that tidy pleasure. NASA first worked with Black & Decker to develop a portable, self-contained drill which could extract core samples from the lunar surface, but the trick was it had to work with minimal power consumption. One thing led to another and Black & Decker figured out that they could use this technology for optimal housekeeping, introducing the Dustbuster in 1981. Thank NASA for cordless tools, too.
More Efficient Solar Power
Single crystal silicon solar power cells on our roofs are a great for the environment and another NASA innovation. The space agency sponsored a 28-member coalition of private companies, government groups, universities, and nonprofits under the Environmental Research Aircraft and Sensor Technology (ERAST) Alliance. The original mission was for the solar-powered flight of unmanned aircraft which could remain in the air for days at a time. SunPower Corporation created advanced silicon-based cells in 2005 which make this possible. These cells produce 50 percent more power than previous solar cells. They are also lightweight and affordable.
Cleaner Drinking Water
Technology developed for the International Space Station and for future Moon Stations is helping deliver clean drinking water to people all over the world, relying on a NASA system which combines chemical adsorption, ion exchange, and ultrafiltration.