I got the idea for this Page while driving to the college this morning. I listen to old-time radio shows from the 40s and 50s on the Internet from sites like live365 and tunein. I happened to be listening to a show about space exploration (this was a scifi station) and it caused me to think of how sad I am that our space program is very tiny compared to what it once was. While people question the money we spend on space exploration, others point out the benefits from the research that are a bit more practical here on Earth. With that in mind, I did some research this morning (office hours a bit slow at the beginning of the semester) and wanted to share some of the inventions that came to us from NASA programs and space research in general.
Invisible Braces - A result of research into ceramics that could be used to protect antennae from being the target of heat-seeking missiles. Your mouth is safe from missiles thanks to NASA and you get straight teeth and a measure of invisibility thrown in for free.
Scratch Resistant Lens - The coating on your plastic lens that keep the scratches off came from the need to find a coating for the same reason for spacecraft.
Ear Thermometer - Came from NASA research into measuring temperature of stars using infrared measurements.
Cordless Tools - NASA teamed up with Black & Decker to make tools that had rechargeable batteries and had low power consumption.
Smoke Detectors - NASA worked with Honeywell in the 70s (I was a teenager and I remember when the smoke detector came out) to develop a smoke detector for space craft. In 1979 the first ionization smoke detector came on the market.
Pavement from old Tires - NASA developed the technology to freeze tires (somewhere below -200F) to make them crumble. The crumbs are used to make pavement for roads.
Memory Foam - This is older than you might think as it was developed in the early 60s for the Apollo Command Module. Fast-forward about 50 years and we have memory foam mattresses, pillows, airline seats, and other products from the space age foam.
Cochlear Implants - Cochlear implants replicate (at least in part) the function of the cochlea in the middle ear. NASA's research into signal detection was used by the researcher who developed these implants. I talk about these in my psyc lecture on Sensation & Perception and am always amazed that this is even possible.
Freeze-Dried Food - Okay, this one might not make you terribly happy (or hungry) but NASA needed a way to feed astronauts without trying to store and/or cook fresh food. This technology ttransferred rather quickly to the grocery store.
There are, of course, hundreds (if not thousands) of additional products that came from NASA research but this handful seemed particularly interesting to me. By the way, NASA did not invent TANG! I discovered that tidbit while doing this research. If you know of other cool inventions from space-age research, please leave a comment.
@Acidbaby - I didn't know that we had products as a result of the Hitler regime other than the VW bug. That is really fascinating. I will do some reading. You might consider writing a Page about it. I would certainly enjoying reading it.