1. Precise GPS
NASA has been a powerhouse of innovation since its inception. Many of the comforts and technologies we enjoy every day are a direct product of their research and development efforts. It’s no surprise, considering the extreme physical demands placed upon equipment and personnel. You may be familiar with some of these innovations, but a few of them might surprise you.
GPS wasn’t always as accurate as we’ve come to expect it to be. It’s a complicated process with lots of variables that can go awry, from satellite clock drift to atmospheric interference. It wasn’t until NASA developed the software behind “precise GPS” that the technology actually became reliable. Before, a reading could be off by fifteen meters. Now, GPS is accurate to within centimeters.
2. Shock Absorbers In Buildings
During a shuttle launch, the launch platform undergoes extreme force. NASA developed a shock absorbing structure, pictured above, that was very effective at withstanding the punishment. The simple design is now implemented in buildings across the globe, fortifying them against earthquakes and other acts of God.
3. Enriched Baby Food
NASA conducted extensive research on the potential uses of microalgae on extended space flights, as a source of food and oxygen and also as an agent of waste disposal. They developed a strain of microalgae that is a great source of Omega-3 fatty acids, and it’s now found in over 90% of processed baby foods.
4. Memory Foam
If you’ve seen a Tempur-Pedic commercial, you already know that memory foam was developed by NASA. It was originally developed as a material to cushion astronauts while they were enduring rapid accelerations. Now, memory foam is commonplace, used in everything from mattresses to helmets.
5. Nanofiber Water Filters
Water is a precious commodity in space – perhaps the most precious, along with fuel. NASA developed nanofiber technology to purify water extremely efficiently, and that technology has now been adapted for use in consumer goods. Nanofiber filters are now available in a number of forms, from personal water bottles to larger systems that filter water for whole communities.
6. CMOS Active Pixel Sensor
The CMOS active pixel sensor, developed by Eric Fossum for use in space cameras, is now a ubiquitous component in digital cameras. It allows cameras to be made much smaller than was previously possible.
7. International Search and Rescue System
The Search and Rescue Satellite Aided Tracking (SARSAT) system, implemented by NASA in 1982, is a system of satellites that communicate with personal tracking beacons that broadcast coordinates and other pertinent data in times of crisis. It has, to date, aided the rescue of over 30,000 people worldwide.
8. Ceramic Braces
Although ceramic braces aren’t quite as mindblowing as they once were, since the invention of Invisalign braces, they were still a major step up from the standard metal ones that preceded them. The “invisible” ceramic used in the braces was originally developed by a private company, in collaboration with NASA, for use in the space program.
There have been lots of aerodynamics tweaks for commerical aircraft that have come out of NASA research, but perhaps the most significant one is the upturned wing tip, or “winglet” that is now a standard feature on most airplanes. The simple modification saves literal billions in fuel costs every year.
10. Aerodynamic Trucks
For the average big-rig truck, NASA-originated aerodynamic designs save about 6,800 gallons of fuel a year. And virtually every truck on the road was guided by those principles of aerodynamics.