Space (2019 | Issue 1)

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Space Inventions
We Use Every Day!

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has pioneered many inventions and technologies to fix specific problems faced during space exploration. Some of them have commercial applications right here on Earth. What’s Up, Germany? checks out spin-offs that have filtered down into our daily lives. You’re probably using some of them right now!

Memory Foam

It started out as an effort to keep pilots safe during flights, but ended up on our beds! We’re talking about memory foam, which has the ability to mould itself, absorb pressure and then return to its original shape. It is used in quite a few products today, from shoes, couches to sport helmets.

Space Blankets

Included in many first aid kits, these lightweight silver blankets treat shock and hypothermia. Originally though, they were developed to protect spacecraft and astronauts from extreme temperatures.

Freeze-dried Food

A lot of research was done on space food before the Apollo mission. Along with Nestlé, NASA came up with the freeze-drying technique, through which food retains 98 percent of its nutrition and weighs only 20 percent of its original weight. This technique is now applied across the food industry.

Enriched Baby Food

Most baby formulas available today contain a nutritional enrichment ingredient that can be traced back to research into the use of algae for long-duration space travel!

Light-emitting Diodes

Tiny red light LED chips are being utilised to grows plants in space. On Earth, they have made their way into medical devices that help treat chronic pain.

Water Filters

Providing astronauts safe drinking water has always been a major challenge. In collaboration with a private company, back in the Seventies NASA developed special cartridge filters that used iodine to remove impurities from water. This technology is used in developing countries around the world.

Better Radial Tyres

Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company developed a fibrous material for NASA’s parachute shrouds that was five times stronger than steel! Goodyear realised it was onto something and created a new radial tyre with this material that lasted way longer than conventional tyres.

Scratch-resistant Lenses

NASA developed a scratch-resistant coating for astronauts’ helmets and other space equipment. Eyewear manufacturer Foster Grant licensed this technology to produce scratch-resistant lenses.

Artificial Limbs

Thanks to research in space robotics and shock-absorbing materials, the private sector has been able to manufacture better artificial limbs.

Infrared Ear Thermometers

Infrared technology can measure the temperature of stars and planets. It is being utilised in ear thermometers to read body temperature by detecting the amount of energy given off by the eardrum.

LASIK

Laser eye surgery also has its origins in space! The technology was created to enable autonomous docking of spaceships to satellites. That required great precision, which was only possible with lasers. This same technology helps surgeons track eye movements at a rate of 4,000 times per second during vision correction surgery.

Mobile Phone Cameras

In the 1990s, scientist Eric Fossum worked to create cameras small enough to fit onto spacecrafts. He ended up inventing the “camera on a chip” that is now in 90 percent of all mobile phones!

Cochlear Implants

Frustrated by his poor hearing, NASA engineer Adam Kissiah came up with the concept for a new type of hearing aid in the Seventies. He worked with a private company to develop the implant, which has helped people tremendously with their hearing. How cool is that?!

Shoe Soles

To make sturdy and lightweight helmets for astronauts, NASA developed blow rubber moulding. These “shock absorbers” sneaked into the soles of sneakers! Now that’s one big step for mankind!