Space Technology Isn’t Just Rockets And Satellites !

Space exploration peaked during October 1969, when NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration from America, landed the first astronauts on the moon. This was definitely not an easy task, especially since the Space Race only commenced in August 1955. This means it only took us humans, 14 years to figure out how to fly 380 thousand kilometers through the vacuum of space to the famous rock. And then back again!

The challenges aeronautical engineers faced to accomplish this were plentiful and complicated. Not only were they to create rockets with enough power to lift 240 thousand kilograms, but also they were to figure out issues like how would pens work in micro gravity. It was these somewhat surprising issues that gave way to a plethora of inventions that we commonly use even today!

Actually, NASA holds over 6300 patents that have uses for astronauts and us alike. So which inventions do we have NASA to thank for?

The Dustbuster, for moon dust and your crisp crumbs

A commonplace machine to have in the modern home, the Dustbuster is the original name for the first cordless vacuum. This came about as a part of NASA’s Apollo Space Mission, the first mission to land humans on the moon. NASA wanted numerous samples from the lunar subsurface to be brought back to Earth, these samples were to be taken somewhat far from the shuttle landing. So in effort to reduce the length of cord from the vacuum to the shuttle for power, the Black & Decker Manufacturing Company were approached to make a cordless drill and vacuum.

Cordless drill and vacuum. Image via NASA

Their creation was a battery-powered, magnet-motor system which performed the job perfectly. In fact, they reduced power usage in the machine so much so, that a new wave of battery-powered tools for medical, industrial and consumer usage was created. Now we couldn’t imagine life without these tools! 

Memory Foam, to protect your butt in your rocket and your head in your bed

Imagine sitting in a plane as it takes off, as you start your accent you feel the g-force pressing you back against your seat at about 1.3 times the force you feel normally due to gravity. Now imagine this force times four. This is what Apollo 11 astronauts felt 160 seconds after launch, and other astronauts have felt more! To make the seats on rockets safer, engineers needed to line the seats with padding that would protect the astronauts in events like reentry and launching. Additionally, engineers needed to account for differences in astronauts physiques, and keep the seats correctly proportional as the astronauts trained and their bodies altered.

Memory foam. Image via Wiki Commons.

 

The solution was a foam that molded to a shape when needed, and molded to a rest state when not needed. The solution was called memory foam and largely consisted of polyurethane and additives which changed the viscosity and density. Today we see this used in mattresses, helmets and almost all applications where comfort is important!

Infrared Ear Thermometers, measures your temperature without touching you!

As a part of NASA’s technology affiliates program, Diatek Corporation used technology from the Jet Propulsion Lab in NASA to create a thermometer that does not rely on heat transfer through direct contact. Instead, the thermometer reads the black body radiation from the inside of your ear in the same way that we read the black body radiation from stars to determine their temperature. With NASA’s assistance Diatek was able to make a contactless thermometer weighing only 8 ounces and operable in a single hand.

Infrared Ear Thermometer. Image via NASA.

Since temperature can be taken without oral or rectal readings, this thermometer avoids touching mucous membranes thus almost completely eradicating any risk of cross infections. Undoubtedly you’ve come across this in your doctors office!

 

Not only these inventions do we have NASA to thank for, but also the CAT scanner, home insulation, invisible braces and even super soakers are by-products of the work done by NASA.

It’s not uncommon to not realize the reach of innovation that space exploration has had on inventions, but it’s an important realization to make. For the benefit of mankind and for the benefit of clean floors and comfy seats, we should be investing into space. Because even if it takes decades to get somewhere in space, the journey of getting there will leave us with an incredible amount of technology.