Let's Talk About: NASA spinoffs

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NASA spinoffs are products that were developed from the same technologies that launched satellites into space, put men on the moon and built the space station. These products have found their way into our lives, from invisible dental braces to portable cordless vacuums.

During the Apollo program, astronauts needed portable self-contained drills to extract samples below the moon's surface. Black & Decker used a specially developed computer program to enhance the design of the drill's motor to ensure minimal power consumption. Refinement of this technology also led to the development of a cordless miniature vacuum cleaner called the Dustbuster. Other home-use cordless tools that have evolved from that technology include drills, shrub trimmers and grass shears.

One of the most successful orthodontic products ever introduced is also a NASA spinoff. Using material originally incorporated in missile tracking devices, a company working with NASA invented translucent ceramic dental braces.

The latest spinoffs produced by NASA include a new firefighting system, influenced by a NASA-derived rocket design that extinguishes fires more quickly than traditional systems, saving lives and property. Software has also been developed that can help commercial airlines fly shorter routes and help save millions of gallons of fuel each year, reducing costs to airlines while benefiting the environment. A fitness monitoring device, when fitted in a strap or shirt, can be used to measure and record vital signs. This technology is now being used to monitor the health of members of the armed services and of professional athletes. After working with NASA, one company has developed a system for converting gas-powered vehicles to gas-electric hybrids; its sister company now produces a successful line of electric motors for vehicles.

NASA spinoffs have proven benefits in health and medicine, transportation, public safety, consumer goods, energy and the environment, information technology and industrial productivity. They have also stimulated the economy by creating new jobs and businesses.

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