You've probably seen ads for mattresses and pillows that use a material developed by NASA. In 1966, researchers were looking for an improved cushioning for astronauts' seats. They came up with an open-cell polyurethane foam that conforms well to a person's body and holds that shape. It actually softens in reaction to body heat. In addition to mattresses, this "memory" foam has found uses in football helmets, race cars and commercial airline seats. In hospitals, it helps prevent bed sores [source: NASA Scientific Forty-year-old].
If you wear sunglasses, you may be benefitting from NASA technology. In the 1980s, the agency developed lenses to protect astronauts' eyes from harmful rays. The idea was based on the eyes of birds of prey. The lenses filter the damaging ultraviolet rays while letting through most of the rest of the light. So they protect eyes and let you see better at the same time. They are now available in commercial sunglasses, marketed as Eagle Eyes [source NASA Scientific Ultraviolet].
Using and reusing water during a space flight is a problem NASA had to grapple with. A purification system developed for Apollo spacecraft employs copper and silver electrodes to ionize and destroy algae and bacteria. Today it is used to purify water in swimming pools and in water treatment plants [source: The Futurist].
The fact is, you're likely to encounter NASA spinoff technology wherever you look:
- NASA didn't invent cordless tools, but since there are no extension cords in space, the agency contributed to the technology that gives us portable screwdrivers and battery-powered vacuum cleaners.
- Bicycle makers have used NASA research to develop aerodynamic bicycle wheels with only three spokes.
- A protective coating that NASA developed to protect buildings from saltwater along the Florida coast, where it launches many of its rockets, was adapted by a private company for use on bridges and roadways.
- An intelligent oven that lets you start cooking a meal via your cell phone or the Web was based on NASA computer technology.
Read on for lots more information about how NASA technology has changed our world.