10 Reasons Why Space Exploration Matters to You

It Will Lead to More Great Inventions
The space blanket, which helps people to warm up quickly, was invented by NASA scientists. Peter Muller/Getty Images

A very long list of gadgets, materials and processes originally were developed for the U.S. space program but found other applications back on Earth -- so many that NASA has an office that looks for ways to repurpose space technology as products. We all know about freeze-dried food, but there are plenty of others. In the 1960s, for example, NASA scientists developed a plastic coated with a metallic reflecting agent. When used in a blanket, it reflects about 80 percent of a user's body heat back to him or her — an ability that helps accident victims and post-marathon runners to stay warm.

Another more obscure but valuable innovation is nitinol, a flexible but resilient alloy that was developed to enable satellites to spring open after being folded into a rocket. Today, orthodontists equip patients with braces made from the material [source: Independent].