5 NASA Inventions That Have Changed Our Lives

Peggy Whitson Longest Time In Space (1)

Since the time of its establishment in 1958, NASA had to custom design and manufacture everything from scratch given that the inventions were to be used on other planets. These inventions range from the Spacesuits to mirrors, from facilitating calls of nature to software used in International Space Station ISS and the Hubble Telescope. NASA was able to achieve that with some help from partnerships with other scientists and businesses. Today we will not talk about the inventions that helped us explore space and other planets but the ones that found their use on the Earth. Yes, Tang being one of them. The product was not a hit until NASA used it on John Glenn’s Mercury flight, February 1962, and later on Gemini missions.


5. Nanoceramics Cure Cancer, Make Hair Shiny

Dr. Dennis Morrison while working for NASA on nanomaterials, created nanoceramics which can be used to make microcapsules. These microcapsules are like tiny balloons that can be filled with drugs that fight cancer and can be injected into the solid tumors.

If you are wondering why Dr. Dennis was working on tumors rather than space inventions, the reason for the creation of microcapsules in low-Earth orbit was to come up with a microscopic membrane to hold the liquid drugs. The capsules would melt inside the body when it’s exposed to a magnetic field, releasing the drug to fight cancer.

Credits: Giphy

Later it was found out that these ceramic-magnetic particles could fight frizz in your hair as well. The particles were combined with the  Farouk Systems’s hairstyling iron and the heat from the iron would release the particles and make hair silky smooth and shiny.

Credits: Meme Generator

4.Reflective Coatings Save Skylab, Manatees

It was in 1973 that Skylab, a space-based laboratory was established. Soon after, a solar panel broke off during launch. This hindered the deployment of the other solar panel in the orbit. NASA had the challenge to replace these panels quickly. National Metalizing had helped NASA develop the reflective materials in the 1950s, and hence NASA sought help from National Metalizing to create the solar panel that could be ready to be sent to space in 10 days.

National Metalizing delivered the panels in time, which were made from a thin plastic material coated with vaporized aluminium. Depending on the demand, the material was able to deflect or converse energy, this would allow the material to cool or heat up things. The director of National Metalizing started a new company based on this material called the Advanced Flexible Materials.

Credits: Shutterstock

The material became so useful that it became a part of Space Technology – Hall of Fame, in 1996. The material is now used to protect marathon runners, after the race, from hypothermia. The manatees can suffer from hypothermia at 15.6° celsius (60° Fahrenheit), during the process of tagging for research, the material helps to protect them as well.

3. Deformable Mirrors — Not for the Fun House

During Hubble Space Telescope’ launch in 1990, the pictures and videos surfaced in News showing mirrors being polished to perfection, since any error can obscure vital findings.  Hubble using the remarkable optical glass, became a pioneer for Terrestrial Planet Finder. The new deformable mirrors used in Terrestrial Planet Finder will have imaging power 100 times that of Hubble. Deformable mirrors need not be polished to perfection before exposure; they adjust their position to counter distortion or blurring.

Credits: ESA/Hubble

Although the Deformable mirrors had been proposed since the 1950s, United States Air Force developed them in 1970. The system consists of a sensor to measure the aberrations at the rate of hundred aberrations a second and small computer to read the sensor’s results and guide the position of the mirrors.


2. Nanotubes Look for Life on Mars

Hollywood may have us believe that life on the Mars would be more or less human-like, the likelihood of that happening is very slim. Say there is life on Mars, the chances are that it would be tiny in size and also not much higher on the evolution ladder. The detection of such small life form demanded small detectors. That’s where the nanotubes come in. Carbon Nanotubes were developed by scientists at the Ames Research Cente, the nanotubes are 1/50,000th the diameter of a human hair, and are used to conduct heat and electricity.

Self-assembly of a DNA-Carbon Nanotube Hybrid
Credits: Penn Physics

Nanotube contains with a singular strand of NA of the DNA, nucleic acid. In the case, this strand comes in contact with some life-form, the single strand will form a double helix with the strand from that species and notify with an electric charge. This NA strand is just as single as most engineers out there, No life has yet been found. However, the biosensor has been quite useful on the Earth, the nanotubes, when exposed to waterborne pathogens, allows analysts to get the result in the field in less than 2 hours, skipping the lab work altogether.


1. Mars Missions Create Tough Armor

When the Mars Rover and Mars Pathfinder landed on the Red Planet, the remotely handled landing was not so smooth. The crafts were designed to crash land with the help of airbags that caged the equipment to make the landing as cushioned as possible. The airbags were custom manufactured to endure extreme pressures of the flight, to stay afloat while the machine bounced on rocky, jagged surface of Mars, in addition to being lightweight.

Using a tight weaving technique, Warwick Mills created SoftPlate body armor, which offers flexibility, comfort, and armor concealment.
Credits: NASA

Warwick Mills assisted the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of NASA to create the parachutes for Apollo missions in 1960, that helped to reenter the craft into the Earth’s atmosphere. They created the airbags for Mars missions this time with layered and coated liquid crystal polyester fiber. Warwick Mills used the technology to build TurtleSkin protective gear, that can tolerate punctures from knives, nails, and needles, and even bullets. The fabric protects the Mars landers in the space and armed forces on the Earth.

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