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.
- Beith, Malcolm. "The Profit Mission," Newsweek.com, March 3, 2003. (March 17, 2011)http://www.newsweek.com/2003/03/02/the-profit-mission.html
- Gaudin, Sharon. "NASA research finds way into IT, consumer products," Computerworld, November 17, 2008. (March 17, 2011)http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/329743/NASA_Research_Finds_Way_Into_IT_Consumer_Products
- Johnston, Gordon. "Charge-Coupled Device (CCD) Imaging Arrays," Ranier.hq.nasa.gov, March 3, 1997. (March 17, 2011)http://ranier.hq.nasa.gov/sensors_page/dd/hst&gll_ccd.html
- Marshall Space Flight Center. "Memory Metals Finding Their Way Into Golf Clubs, Helicopters, Operating Rooms, Bath Tubs and Factories," May, 1997. (March 17, 2011)http://techtran.msfc.nasa.gov/new/memmetal.html
- Murphy, Samantha. "What Products Were NASA Spinoffs? New Smartphone App Knows," Space.com, January 19, 2011. (March 17, 2011)http://www.space.com/10648-nasa-technology-spinoff-android-app.html
- NASA. "Inventions from Space. (March 17, 2011)http://spaceplace.nasa.gov/en/kids/spinoffs2.shtml
- NASA Scientific & Technical Information. "Cooking Dinner at Home-From the Office." Spinoff, 2005. (March 17, 2011)http://www.sti.nasa.gov/tto/Spinoff2005/ch_2.html
- NASA Scientific & Technical Information. "Spinoff Frequently Asked Questions." (March 17, 2011)http://www.sti.nasa.gov/tto/spinfaq.htm#spinfaq8
- NASA Scientific & Technical Information. "Composite Sandwich Technologies Lighten Components," Spinoff, 2010. (March 17, 2011)http://www.sti.nasa.gov/tto/Spinoff2010/ip_1.html
- NASA Scientific & Technical Information. "Forty-Year-Old Foam Springs Back With New Benefits," Spinoff, 2005. (March 17, 2011)http://www.sti.nasa.gov/tto/Spinoff2005/ch_6.html
- NASA Scientific & Technical Information."Ultraviolet-Blocking Lenses Protect, Enhance Vision," Spinoff, 2010. (March 17, 2011)http://www.sti.nasa.gov/tto/Spinoff2010/hm_3.html
- Office of Management and Budget. "National Aeronautics and Space Administration." (March 17, 2011)http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/factsheet_department_nasa/
- O'Rangers, Eleanor A. "NASA Spin-offs: Bringing Space Down to Earth," Space.com, January 26, 2005. (March 17, 2011)http://www.space.com/731-nasa-spin-offs-bringing-space-earth.html
- The Futurist. "Space race to marketplace," September-October, 1993. (March 17, 2011)http://www.allbusiness.com/professional-scientific/scientific-research/394479-1.html
- Thespaceplace.com. "NASA Spinoffs." (March 17, 2011)http://www.thespaceplace.com/nasa/spinoffs.html