What does NASA science do for me?
illustration courtesy NASA Spinoff
 
It is easy to forget that all of the hard work, technology, and money that NASA pours into space research actually comes back down to Earth. In fact, many of NASA's missions and research focus on our planet! NASA also has many other projects with partners that use their research to enrich everyone's lives here on Earth-and this is not including such notable achievements such as satellite weather maps!

The NASA Spinoff program was created over fifty years ago to help facilitate licensing and development of their technologies to other companies and agencies for commercial development, quite literally helping to "spin off" their tech for use by others here on Earth-and in some cases, space! To date over 1,800 spinoff technologies have been documented by the NASA Spinoff program.

Solar Cells on a house courtesy Wikimedia Comons and Gary Watson
Some notable examples of NASA spinoffs include:
  • Solar Cells
  • Water Purification
  • Memory foam for your cozy bed and chairs
  • Firefighting equipment, especially lightweight fireproof clothing and masks with much improved air filters
  • Highway safety grooves, which help your car go around curves without slipping off in by giving your tire better traction
  • Many safety features in modern aircraft, such as de-icing technologies for wings, chemical detectors and imaging for plane maintenance, improved flight controls, and many many more
  • Image stabilization for your binoculars and video cameras
  • The Dustbuster!
  • Healthier baby food
...and many more!  Check out this Wikipedia page for a more extensive list of the technologies that NASA has had a direct role in developing, that in many cases we now take for granted.

It is worth noting that there are a few technologies that people commonly think of as being created by NASA that were independently created. Tang is a great example; it was developed by General Foods in 1957, and attained fame when used during food testing by NASA in the 60s (even though some astronauts were not fans of the powdery not-quite-orange-juice). The microwave oven is another famous technology often falsely thought of as a NASA development. It was in fact created shrtly after World War 2, when radar technicians discovered that it wasn't such a good idea to stand in front of active equipment! Thankfully they found out via a melted candy bar, and not from severe burns!

Every year, NASA releases a report on its program, and the 2013 edition of the NASA Spinoff magazine is now available! Check it out here to find out the latest developments in NASA's down to Earth technological program: 
http://1.usa.gov/1miv1x2

Last Updated: May 2013
 
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