30 Surprising Ways NASA Changed Everyday Life
NASA did some major celebrating in 2019, and for good reason. Reaching the 50th anniversary of landing on the moon is a fantastic excuse to throw a bit of a party. However, the moon landing certainly isn't the only major accomplishment that NASA has under its belt, even though it's probably the most famous. Our lives have been majorly impacted by NASA — through the discoveries it’s made and the technologies it’s given us — in more ways than we may realize.
Technology to increase fire safety is important; it's even more important when you're building a spaceship. NASA took its job pretty seriously on that front. When the Apollo missions were being prepared, NASA partnered with a company to develop a heat shield for the ship's reentry.
Taking pictures with our phones has become as natural as breathing. When we're with our friends, when we see a beautiful sunset or even when we see a cute cat, we can snap a quick picture and remember the moment forever. But camera phones weren't always around; NASA technology is what led to them.
Humans don't do well with temperature extremes. Sometimes, due to an accident or because they just weren't prepared, people have to endure them. In cases of extreme temperature, whether in the mountains or post-rescue from a dangerous situation, the human body needs to stay warm in order to prevent conditions like shock or hypothermia.
If you wear glasses, you know it can be difficult to keep the lenses clean and unbroken. Even more important than keeping them clean, though, is making sure they don't get scratched. Thanks to NASA, keeping eyeglasses scratch-free is a lot easier than it used to be.
As we search for more renewable sources of energy to help make Earth a little healthier, we often land on solar power as a pretty reliable source. But the technology for this energy source doesn't come from any Earth-bound company. Fittingly, the technology to harness the power of the sun comes from NASA’s space-exploration experts.
There's a fair amount of pollution in the world, and it impacts everyone’s daily lives. As we try to come up with solutions for fixing this problem (and doing better about pollution in the future) NASA has already come up with at least one piece of technology to help the international pollution problem: the Petroleum Remediation Product.
Freeze-dried foods and ingredients are pretty common nowadays. We can buy them in stores, and we can prepare them ourselves at home during emergencies. The technology for them, however, hasn't always been so readily available. The Apollo Missions were a major turning point for NASA, and preparing for them was quite an undertaking.
Land Mine Removal
When you think about the process of removing old land mines, you might not associate it with NASA. But the two seemingly unrelated projects have one very important link. A demining device uses surplus rocket fuel (supplied by NASA) to remotely ignite and neutralize land mines without detonating them.
In this day and age when our phones play an almost-hourly part of our lives, it's easy to forget that this technology is actually fairly recent. We rely on it, and the ability to communicate plays an enormous role in the relationships we're able to cultivate, the businesses we're able to reach and our ability to research other parts of the globe (and space).
Fire safety seems like it would be a priority for inventors and scientists, but it took a space mission for scientists to create an updated device that alerts people to the presence of smoke. While NASA was designing safety equipment for Skylab, the first U.S. space station, it was concerned about fire safety in the station.
In today's world, computers are almost extensions of our own arms. With modern technology, inventors and computer engineers have made them as easy to operate as possible. That wasn't always the case, though. In fact, up until the 1960s, computers didn't even have mice.
The joystick might seem like a fairly straightforward piece of machinery, but it plays a very important role in a variety of historical timelines. Original gaming systems like Nintendo and Atari started off with a single controller, and even on modern controllers (like the Nintendo Switch system), joysticks are still part of the gaming experience.
This seemingly basic technology had a much grander beginning than you might think. The technology behind shoe insoles actually began with a lunar problem. When NASA was preparing to send astronauts to the moon, it needed to develop a material for the astronauts' boots that gave them spring in their step while also providing ventilation.
Of all the professions in which equipment is key, firefighting is pretty important. When firefighters arrive on the scene, they need to be able to trust that their equipment is going to work well — and at peak efficiency — so they can do their jobs.
Memory Foam Mattresses
We're always looking for the perfect mattress to help send us to sleep, and each person wants something different. Memory foam seems to be a fairly agreed-upon solution that's comfortable for just about everyone who uses it. But the material itself wasn't actually created for sleeping; it had a very different start.
Enriched Baby Food
Using enriched baby food is something so normal that you might never think your ability to do so is a result of space exploration. It was NASA that discovered the microalgae that's now added to common baby food to enrich its nutritional value and help with children's mental and visual development.
While we may think of cordless tools and rechargeable batteries as everyday items, there was a time this wasn't the case: before the moon landing. NASA knew astronauts would need access to tools to collect soil and rock samples, but they’d need to be versatile to fit the astronauts' needs — like not being limited by the length of a cord.
Whether someone is born with a condition or had an accident, living with a missing limb can present some unique challenges. Technologies surrounding and improving prosthetic limbs aren't just a luxury to help make life better; for some people, they're a necessity. The technology for artificial limbs has NASA to thank.
When you think of lights, you might not associate them with outer space — and for the most part, with good reason. Astronauts didn't invent light bulbs, after all. But NASA did play a role in the lighting industry, and it has to do with light-emitting diodes (LEDs). These were developed specifically for NASA for use in space shuttles.
Having an accurate temperature reading is important. Traditional mercury thermometers are all fine and good, but they're difficult to read with the degree of accuracy that medical professions demand. Thanks to NASA, there’s a solution. When NASA measures the temperature of stars, it uses infrared technology.
Structural Analysis Software
If you've ever ridden a roller coaster or driven a car, you've probably experienced the results of something called structural analysis software. These computer programs help engineers design things like cars, roller coasters and pretty much anything with, as the name suggests, a structure that could be analyzed.
While many people had an unfortunate braces-wearing phase in middle school or high school, some need braces later in life (or forgot to wear their retainers and need a second round of braces). Nowadays there's an invisible alternative to all that wire; it’s made of a translucent material called polycrystalline alumina.
Video Enhancing & Analysis Systems
Having the crispest, sharpest video quality might seem like a luxury for movie buffs who want the scenes to be as realistic as possible. Of course, there are other reasons to want cleaner video quality; some professions rely on it. The FBI, for example, needs to be able to analyze videos for extremely small details.
The ability to detect chemicals in the air is important in a lot of fields, especially when it comes to potential chemical weapons or warfare agents. NASA uses chemical-detection systems to check for moisture and pH levels and monitor potential corrosion on equipment in order to prevent damage to said equipment (and to the astronauts relying on that equipment).
Improved Rescue Teams
Thanks to NASA, rescue teams have experienced an improvement that has increased their ability to do their jobs and save people more efficiently. At the request of FEMA, NASA started researching ways to find a human heartbeat — when it was buried under piles of rubble, rocks or other debris from an accident.
Water-filtration systems and general water hygiene aren’t the most straightforward processes, even though we rely on them daily. The modern water filter came into existence a lot later than many people assume it did, and we have NASA to thank for it.
LZR Racer Suit
When people participate in high-stakes athletic competitions, the equipment they use is important. The smallest differences in equipment and clothing can give them a potential edge over the competition. One such piece of athletic equipment is the LZR Racer Suit: a high-tech swimsuit designed to create less friction and drag in the water, helping racers move faster.
Ventricular Assist Device
Patients needing heart donors often have to wait for long amounts of time for a variety of reasons, such as how desperate their need is and how many heart donors there are (assuming, of course, that the donor and patient are a good match).
While lubricants in liquid form may be more traditional and are probably what most of us use at home when we need to get our doors to stop squeaking, NASA needed an alternative — something for astronauts to use in space.
Improved Radial Tires
Tires have been around for a while, and car-industry professionals have been working on making them better for almost as long as cars have been widely available. One surprising contributor to the tire industry, however, is NASA. When the Mars Viking Lander spacecraft was being prepared, NASA needed a material to help land the craft without too harsh of an impact.