Technology Influenced by NASA
Twenty-four hours a day, the majority of people living in the United States use an immense variety of technology designed to make lives more convenient, accomplish tasks faster or improve overall conditions. However, what many may not know is the influence that NASA has had in technological development. Thousands of items and methodologies came into being because of a need discovered when planning a space mission. Seeing the benefit that the technology provided, engineers passed the ideas onto consumers.
In attempts at making re-entry safer for astronauts, engineers designed the special foam that would not only absorb an impact, but also return to its original shape. From the inside of spacecraft, the foam became synonymous with bed mattresses and pillows. However, the technology is now incorporated in a variety of items that include automotive padding, amusement park ride padding, safety padding in sports equipment and household furnishings. Manufacturers might also add memory foam to animal and human prosthetic devices, equestrian saddles and archery targets.
Radial Tire Enhancement
NASA needed a fibrous but strong material to use for the parachutes designed to land equipment on the surface of Mars. The Goodyear Tire Company developed a material with chain-like molecules that exhibited the necessary qualities, which included having strength five times that of steel. The company began incorporating the new material into their line of radial tires. The result is a tire that lasts 10,000 more miles than previous products.
During the 1960s, the Langely Research Center at NASA developed the idea of cutting grooves into concrete to enhance traction and prevent aircraft collisions on wet runways from hydroplaning. Highway engineers took notice and began applying the technique to the nation’s roadways. The grooves reduce skidding, decrease the distance required for stopping and improve a vehicle’s ability to travel around curves and corners. NASA reports that the method helped reduce accidents by 85 percent. Today, grooving is also added to pedestrian walkways and around swimming pools.
As NASA began preparing for the Apollo missions that would take astronauts to the moon, cordless, lightweight tools were needed in the event of exterior craft repairs and to obtain soil and rock samples. Space engineers combined efforts with technicians at Black & Decker and created a battery-operated, magnet-motor drill. Computerized technology contained within the tool ensured that the charge lasted longer. Now, whether vacuuming crumbs using a hand-held cordless device or completing a DIY project, cordless technology benefits homeowners.
Though astronauts undergo rigorous training, medical evaluations and monitoring before a space mission. Once in space, physicians continued observing the health of team members from a distance. This necessity led to the advent of telemedicine. Whether merely monitoring vital signs, or needing to intervene in case of illness or injury, long distance medicine became a reality. Through various media options, physicians began communicating across the country and between countries for the benefit of patients. Telemedicine evolved into patients having the ability to consult with physicians online to get answers to questions, make appointments or recommendations.