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How space technology makes your everyday life better
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            Most of us will most likely never set foot on the Moon or travel into space, but chances are we all come close to technologies derived from NASA discoveries quite often.

NASA inventions,scratch-resistant sunglasses,image-processing algorithms,memory foam,charcoal filter silver ions,NASA and Rovio

            When the National Aeronautics and Space Administration was born in 1958, the Space Act signed by President Eisenhower clearly stated that its research programs and discoveries should go beyond space technology and benefit all people.It has been almost 60 years since NASA was created, and its history proves it has certainly done it.Over the course of its existence, NASA has filed more than 6 300 patents. While we may tend to associate the organization with the sci-fi dream world that few of us will ever reach, it turns out that a huge number of these innovations have led to numerous technologies improving our daily lives, making important steps in communications, health, safety or even entertainment industries, as NASA regularly collaborates with various research companies in the attempt to put their knowledge to use for the average mortal as well. In the year 1976, they even launched a journal called "Spinoff", which highlights these very products, that would have probably never existed without an innovation or discovery made by NASA.

•             Medicine nowadays relies greatly on technology, and some of its technical gimmicks find their roots in NASA innovations. 

The infrared thermometer, for example.

NASA inventions,scratch-resistant sunglasses,image-processing algorithms,memory foam,charcoal filter silver ions,NASA and Rovio


Developed together with Diatek Corporation, this thermometer uses an infrared sensor used in astronomy technology to measure the energy emitted by the eardrum, much in the same way that NASA astronauts and technicians measure the temperature of stars and planets.This method proves to be extremely useful in hospitals as well as in space, since this type of thermometer avoids contact with mucous membranes, therefore lowering the risk of cross infection to nearly zero, potentially saving the lives of critically ill, newborn or other types of incapacitated patients.

 •             A large amount of space technology relies on robotics, and NASA developed over time numerous solutions for space suits, making advances in shock absorption and comfort materials along the way, so why not use all this knowledge in the field of artificial limbs? Together with Environmental Robots Inc., a company that developed artificial muscle systems, NASA helps the private sector find better solutions for human or animal prostheses, adapting robotics to create more dynamic artificial limbs. Moreover, the custom moldable materials created for the space industry can help offer the natural feel of flesh, preventing friction between the skin and the prosthesis and moisture buildup at the same time.

 •             There are not so many youngsters out there that are excited by the prospect of wearing braces, but straightening one's teeth should never be neglected.

 

NASA inventions,scratch-resistant sunglasses,image-processing algorithms,memory foam,charcoal filter silver ions,NASA and Rovio


However, there is some hope for all the looks-conscious teens, since NASA Advanced Ceramics Research developed a material called translucent polycrystalline alumina, or TPA, together with the company Ceradyne.At the time TPA was created, another company called Unitek was looking for a way to design better looking (and less social stigmatizing) braces, and this is how the invisible braces were born and launched in 1987, since TPA was not only barely noticeable, but also extremely resistant.

 •             Glasses are another wearable that has greatly benefited from NASA innovations. If you happen to drop your pair on the ground, the lenses will likely remain intact.  Why is that?

 

NASA inventions,scratch-resistant sunglasses,image-processing algorithms,memory foam,charcoal filter silver ions,NASA and Rovio


In 1972, American manufacturers started being required to use plastic instead of glass, since it comes at a cheaper price, can absorb ultraviolet radiation better and is harder to break. However, uncoated plastic tends to scratch very easily, endangering the sight of the wearer. Since space is full of dirt and all sorts of particles, NASA has had quite an experience in protecting materials from the danger of scratching, particularly the visors of astronauts' helmets, and the sunglasses manufacturer Foster-Grant knew there was a commercial opportunity in there.The company licensed this particular NASA technology and used it for its products, making ten times more scratch-resistant sunglasses with the help of the special coating.

 •             NASA also contributed more or less directly to new diagnosis techniques. Prior to the Hubble telescope's mission in 1993, technicians noticed that the images it sent were blurry, so they worked on specific techniques to correct the aberrations of its primary mirror and to gain more dynamic range and spatial resolution.
These innovative image-processing algorithms were later adapted to help detect micro calcifications, an early sign of breast cancer, helping patients get diagnosed sooner in order to get treatment before it is too late, all thanks to a joint effort by medical researchers from the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University, and the Lombardi Cancer Research Center at the Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

 •             The open cell polyurethane-silicon plastic, or "memory foam" used for mattresses to help people get better sleep was initially created by NASA for use in aircraft seats, so that the landing impact has less force on the passenger. This plastic has the unique property of distributing weight and pressure on it evenly, to that shock can be absorbed.

 

NASA inventions,scratch-resistant sunglasses,image-processing algorithms,memory foam,charcoal filter silver ions,NASA and Rovio


Another magical feature of this material is that it can regain its initial shape and form even after being compressed to ten percent of its size, making it useful for other purposes as well, such as motorcycle seats, custom body molds used by tailors and racecar protection.
Doctors also use this foam for the comfort of disabled or bedridden patients, customizing the material to fit their specific needs and reduce bedsores. It has also been integrated into prosthetic limbs to help reduce friction with the skin.

  •            Another way in which NASA contributes to our everyday comfort has its origin in the space suit worn by Neil Armstrong on the Apollomission to the moon, more specifically in his "moon boots".The specially-made boots helped put a spring in the astronaut's step, while providing ventilation at the same time, and athletic shoes manufacturers such as KangaROOS USA have adapted these principles to create more advanced sports shoes that can lessen the impact on legs and feet, patenting a special polyurethane foam that absorbs energy when the foot hits the ground during running.

 •             Medicine is not the only field where NASA innovations helped achieves important advancement though. Long before the first human was ever sent on a space journey, NASA developed the technology behind satellites on the ground. Nowadays, around 200 communication satellites orbit our planet, all based on the technology developed by the organization. They are there for all of us, helping us make long-distance calls or watch television, while being monitored by NASA, which is still in charge with their good functioning.
A wide array of NASA inventions focus on safety, and protecting astronauts from the perils of space has come to benefit us all as well. Astronauts needed to know if a fire has started on their spaceship, and starting from this, NASA invented the space detector and later launched a commercial version in collaboration with the Honeywell.

 •             Corporation - an adjustable one with different sensitivity levels, ensuring that no false alarm will start it.Water purification benefits from NASA as well. Whenever astronauts go into space, they need an effective way to obtain clean water, since bacterial infections could be extremely problematic. Even if water purification existed since the 1950s, NASA needed a new, more reliable way to cleanse it and maintain it clean for a long period of time, so they developed the charcoal filter, containing silver ions that can neutralize pathogens in the water and also prevent future growth of bacteria, a simple technology now used by millions of people.

 •             NASA also collaborated with Intelligent Optical Systems (IOS) to develop sensitive sensors for moisture and pH, helping detect corrosive damage bin aircraft before in causes significant damage. These new type of sensors were later developed for detecting chemical threats in warfare, or toxic industrial compounds and nerve agents.

 •             Commercial airline industry also benefited from the anti-icing and de-icing system developed by NASA for spaceships, called Thermawing, the Thermacool air conditioner for single-engine aircraft and the alternators that can power them. Thermawing is the reason why pilots nowadays can fly safely even in extremely cold environments.

 •             Even highways are safer because of NASA: developed to reduce aircraft accidents on wet runways, the "safety grooving" technique, or cutting grooves in concrete, is now used to increase traction and prevent accidents on highways all over the world.

 •             Last but not least, NASA helps entertainment as well. The popular game Angry Birds now features a space-based struggle called "Beak impact", where players can get to the next frontier of space research - asteroids.

 

NASA and Rovio Angry birds


NASA collaborated with Rovio Entertainment, the creators of the game, to design this new level of the game - a wonderful way to spread their knowledge through the fictional realm of mobile games, offering actual scientific information hidden all over the level, educating millions of gamers on their activity and on space.


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Sources:
http://spinoff.nasa.gov/Spinoff2008/tech_benefits.html
http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/m/news/news.php?release=2014-132#.U6Bd2L8aySN
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NASA_spin-off_technologies
http://www.discovery.com/tv-shows/curiosity/topics/ten-nasa-inventions.htm
http://ipp.nasa.gov/innovation/Innovation41/HubbleFights.html

Published by Andreea Dobre

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