Space exploration has given us huge amounts of information and knowledge, which has led directly to inventions and new technologies. These inventions and technologies have greatly benefited us on earth and you might be surprised at how many everyday items came from space travel.
Memory Foam – In the 1960s this material was invented as a way of absorbing the impact of astronauts landing during the Apollo missions. One of its most impressive features is its ability to return to its original form. It was then used to line the helmets of American Footballers’ helmets.
You can now find memory foam in shoe insoles, hospital beds, wheelchair seats and in our pillows and beds.
Scratch-resistant eyeglass lenses – In the 1970s a scratch resistant coating for plastic Space Helmet visors was invented. It was then used on sunglasses/reading glasses from 1983.
Digital hearing aids – In the 1970s an engineer working on the space shuttle programme came up with the concept for a new type of hearing aid – an implant that would produce digital pulses to stimulate the auditory nerve endings, which then would transmit the signals to the brain.
Insulin Pumps for Type 1 Diabetes – Medical experts at the Goddard Space Flight Centre created implanted devices that can monitor a person’s blood sugar levels and send signals to release insulin into his or her body when needed. This has been used to treat people with type 1 diabetes since the 1980s.
Hydraulic Rescue Tools – these were developed from the same concept that NASA used to separate shuttles from their booster rockets mid-air. They are now used by search-and-rescue teams and fire services to save individuals trapped in wrecked cars or collapsed buildings.
Water filters – designed in the 1970s to ensure that astronauts had safe drinking water were then used on earth to filter out harmful minerals in our water.
Camera phones – in the 1960s a team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) designed a camera small enough to carry into space. This was an early version of the cameras we all have on our phones.
Nike Air Trainers – a former NASA engineer came up with the idea of these trainers after being involved with space suit design.
Foil blankets – that athletes/rescue services use, were first designed for use in space for lightweight insulation of people and machinery.
The cordless dust buster – after working with NASA to develop a cordless and self-contained power drill for use on the Apollo moon landings between 1963 and 1972, Black and Decker went on to design other cordless machines, such as the dust buster.
Wireless headsets – Early spacecraft pilots used headsets that were bulky and uncomfortable. Wireless headsets were invented as a better alternative.
Freeze dried food – The Gemini spaceflight programme in 1965 saw the first use of freeze dried food.
Other inventions include:
Computer mouse and laptop
Adjustable smoke detectors
The list of inventions as a direct result of our space exploration is incredibly long and growing rapidly.
These inventions have saved and enhanced lives since the 1960s.
How would you cope without them?
So next time you hear about something brand new it may well come from space research and development.