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With a Little Help From My Friends (at NASA)

Okay, look out friends, I’m going to get up on my soapbox.

I often hear people complain about the cost of the space program.  Why do we spend money on space exploration when we have so many problems here at home?  And when these spacecraft go wrong, think of all that wasted money!

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to claim we don’t have problems here at home.  I am writing this in my breakfast nook during my so-many-weeks-I’ve-lost-count-th week of self-quarantine.  We definitely have some problems here at home.

However…pure science research of any kind (not just space science) carries with it value that you might not be able to see at the time.  And of course, the fact that NASA receives a tiny fraction of the federal budget (0.5%) is often quoted as a reason not to worry about that spending.  But today, as we celebrate technology for Museum Week, I want to remind folks about an important point.

Even when a space mission fails, that money was well spent.  After all, it was spent here, at home.  It gave good jobs to a large number of people for many years.  It helped develop and improve technologies that we use in our everyday lives.  I promise you, NASA does not pack the money on the spacecraft and launch it!  They spend it right here on Earth.  And with it, they make many of the things we now take for granted possible or better.  Don’t believe me?  Check out this “short” list of things NASA has contributed to.  How many of them are in your home?

  • Acoustic Guitars: Paul McCartney and Melissa Etheridge can attest to how much better NASA has made guitars by making their aerospace vibration testing technology available to guitar manufacturers.
  • Air Conditioners: These systems use filters developed by NASA to remove dust and pollen from our air.
  • App-Controlled Ovens: These modern kitchen devices use a software package originally developed by NASA to allow astronauts to control experiments on the International Space Station.
  • Baby Food: Most baby foods on the market today are enriched with Omega-3 fatty acids produced via a method pioneered by NASA.
  • Baseball Bats: Modern baseball bats are made using a NASA-created “metallic glass” material with twice the hardness per weight of titanium but the ductility of plastic.
  • Cars: Modern cars are designed using a software package created by NASA for the design of spacecraft.
  • Coffee Makers: These common devices use NASA-inspired technology to create delicious drink recipes.
  • Cordless Vacuum: The ease of cordless vacuuming is thanks to technology developed by NASA to create drills used to extract samples on the Moon.
  • Ear Thermometers: These easy-to-use devices were developed using technology originally developed by NASA to measure the temperatures of distant stars and planets.
  • Filtered Water Bottles: These bottles can clean water from rivers and streams directly thanks to filters developed by NASA.
  • Freeze Dried Foods: This common method of food preservation was developed by NASA to improve the quality of food for astronauts.
  • Golf Clubs: Modern golf clubs are made using a NASA-created “metallic glass” material with twice the hardness per weight of titanium but the ductility of plastic.
  • Hair Dryers: NASA-developed materials and technologies are used in making negative-ion hair dryers that make hair easier to style.
  • HDTVs: High definition televisions are checked for quality using technology and software originally designed by NASA.
  • Invisible Braces: These easy-to-use dental devices are made with materials originally developed by NASA for missile tracking devices.
  • LED Lights: The lights we now use everywhere were originally developed by NASA for use in plant-growing systems for space.
  • Radial Tires: These commonly used items are made with a material developed for the parachutes that allowed NASA’s Viking landers to touch down safely on Mars.
  • Scratch Resistant Lenses: Another example of a technology originally developed by NASA that is now used in making many things we use everyday, like sunglasses, ski masks, and face shields.
  • Skin Creams: A NASA-patented bio-reactor is used in skin creams designed to lighten and brighten the tone of your skin.
  • Sneakers: Modern athletic shoes are analyzed for performance using the same technology used by NASA to analyze materials after the Columbia disaster.
  • Speakers: Modern speakers use ferrofluids originally developed by NASA.
  • TEMPUR Foam: This amazing foam found in many modern mattresses and pillows was developed by NASA to improve the comfort and safety of commercial airline seats.
  • Tennis Rackets: Modern tennis rackets are made using a NASA-created “metallic glass” material with twice the hardness per weight of titanium but the ductility of plastic.
  • Wireless Headphones: The headphones you use today were developed using technology created by NASA for communication with the Moon-walking astronauts.

For every $1 spent on the space program, the U.S. economy gets back $8 in technological improvement and new products.  That’s a pretty good investment.  And it’s clearly made our lives better in more ways that we can count.  Want to learn more about how NASA technology improves your life?  Check out NASA’s Home and City.  You’ll be amazed.

You may be thinking I left two of the most important items off this list: Tang and Velcro.  Incredibly…neither of those two products was developed or contributed to by NASA.  While NASA does use a lot of Velcro – they had nothing to do with its creation or development.  And Tang was not created for the astronauts, nor was it ever flown on any NASA mission.

Okay, soapbox rant over.  Until next time!  Stay safe, everyone.

 

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