12 Ways NASA Changed Your Life

  • Is NASA worth it?

    The shaky economic picture—and widespread budget shortfalls—have some wondering if NASA is still worth taxpayers’ support. As reported by WalletPop, “NASA will see its 2010 fiscal year budget increase to $18.7 billion. Combined with the $1 billion NASA got from the new stimulus package, that's $2.4 billion more than the space agency received in 2008. But there are raised eyebrows among congressional auditors who have called for a ‘more disciplined approach’ to projects.” Simmer down, legislators. NASA is about more than just putting people into outer space. We can thank the space agency for a number of things which many of us can't live without. As NASA explains on its Space Shuttle spinoffs page, “Since 1976, over 1,600 documented NASA technologies have benefited U.S. industry, improved our quality of life, and created jobs. The Space Shuttle Program alone has generated more than 100 technology spinoffs.” Here are a handful of the most intriguing technologies generated by NASA efforts. They will surprise you—and may make you think twice before telling politicians to de-fund the space program. (Of course, aside from interesting new technologies, NASA helps the U.S. maintain its supremacy in space—without easy access to space, we would be reliant on other nations for military & communications satellite launches.) Photo Credit: Getty Images
    The Artificial Heart
  • The Artificial Heart

    According to NASA, “More than 200 patients received a second chance at life with tiny heart pumps developed from space shuttle fuel pump technology. Just 1 inch in diameter and weighing less than 4 ounces, the miniaturized ventricular assist pumps were developed by NASA and renowned heart surgeon Dr. Michael DeBakey.” Would you deprive us of more NASA-inspired medical advances? What are you, heartless? Photo Credit: Getty Images
    The Jaws of Life
  • The Jaws of Life

    “Rescue squads use a new hand-held cutter to remove accident victims from wrecked vehicles. Based on a miniature version of the explosive charges used to separate the shuttle from the solid rocket boosters after launch, this device requires no auxiliary power or cumbersome hoses, and it costs 70% less than previous rescue equipment,” NASA claims. Launching satellites. Saving lives. All in a day's work. Photo Credit: Ross Goodman
    Life-Saving Light
  • Life-Saving Light

    “Children suffering from brain tumors may receive relief from lighting technology originally developed for space shuttle plant experiments. Doctors at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee are studying the ability of these light-emitting diodes to kill cancerous tumors in a process called photodynamic therapy,” says NASA. Don’t say no to the kids. Photo Credit: Getty Images
    Automotive Insulation
  • Automotive Insulation

    “NASCAR racecars shield drivers from extreme engine heat using materials from the same thermal protection system used to safeguard NASA astronauts onboard the space shuttle. Their lives depend on it,” the space agency says. Given the insane popularity of NASCAR, maybe each fan should be assessed a small fee in exchange for this technology—that would probably be enough to sustain the space program! Photo Credit: U.S. Army
    Land Mine Removal Device
  • Land Mine Removal Device

    “The same rocket fuel used to propel the space shuttle skyward helps save lives on Earth by destroying land mines. Created from leftover fuel donated by NASA, an explosive flare is placed next to the uncovered land mine, then ignited from a safe distance using a battery-triggered electric match. The explosive burns away, disabling the mine and rendering it harmless,” NASA says. A worthy cause, to be sure—and a smart repurposing of leftover fuel. Photo Credit: Tracy Hunter
    Green Lubricants
  • Green Lubricants

    “Sporting equipment and cars are kinder to the environment with NASA’s high-performance, biodegradable lubricants developed for the enormous crawlers that move the space shuttles to and from the launch pads in Florida,” NASA claims. With all the hype about how important green technology will be to the U.S. in the next 20 years, we’re thankful NASA is already on the case. Photo Credit: Getty Images
    Firefighting Infrared Camera
  • Firefighting Infrared Camera

    Not only does this technology protect homes and people caught in fires, it protects the men and women who risk their lives fighting them. “Firefighters locate hot spots in wildfires by scanning the flames with this sensitive infrared hand-held camera, first used by NASA to observe the blazing plumes from shuttles,” the agency claims. Again, a nice repurposing of space technology for practical Earth needs. Photo Credit: Getty Images
    Home Insulation
  • Home Insulation

    “Homeowners are insulating their homes with the same lightweight, flexible aerogel NASA uses to insulate cryogenics on space shuttles. The insulation is many times thinner and more effective than standard fiberglass insulation, yet can be handled and installed with the same traditional methods.” So NASA helps to lower our heating or electric bills. Thank you space men and women. Photo Credit: Getty Images
    Video Stabilization Software
  • Video Stabilization Software

    “When law enforcement officials needed help clarifying crime-scene video, NASA assisted with high-tech image processing technology used to analyze space shuttle launch video. This software removes defects due to image jitter, rotation, and zoom in video sequences, and may also be useful for medical imaging, scientific applications, and home video.” Cool. NASA technology puts the bad guys behind bars! Photo Credit: AndyRob
    Invisible Braces
  • Invisible Braces

    “Invisible braces are made of translucent polycrystalline alumina (TPA). A company called Ceradyne developed TPA in conjunction with NASA Advanced Ceramics Research to protect the infrared antennae of heat-seeking missile trackers,” according to HowStuffWorks.com. Photo Credit: Getty Images
    Enriched baby food
  • Enriched baby food

    Wonder why your baby formula can do so much nowadays? Talk to NASA. Six of their scientists went on to found a company that makes an infant formula called Formulaid. This formula, according to NASA, is "an algae-based, vegetable-like oil containing two essential polyunsaturated fatty acids … The acids are found in human milk but not in most infant formulas, and they are believed to be associated with mental and visual development.” It looks like NASA is not only keeping us safe, but making the next generation of rocket scientists smarter. Photo Credit: Getty Images
  • Dustbuster

    According to NASA, the modern Black & Decker Dustbuster is a spin-off from a moon tool: A "Portable self-contained drill capable of extracting core samples as much as 10 feet below the surface was needed for the astronauts. Black & Decker used a specially developed computer program to optimize the design of the drill's motor and insure minimal power consumption. Refinement of the original technology led to the development of a cordless miniature vacuum cleaner called the Dustbuster." So the next time you are vacuuming up spilled Cheerios or fish food, you can look up to the stars and thank the astronauts. Photo Credit: ndrwfgg
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