The recent Curiousity Mars landing has reignited our love affair with NASA. Now, we know all about NASA's multiple space missions, Apollo 13, freeze dried food, "One small step for man", and all that, but what has NASA done closer to Earth? Here's our list of all the things that NASA invented just for you.
Think back to the primitive time before infrared ear thermometers. You either had to read a virtually illegible mercury stick, or opt for the unspeakable rectal variety. Well, the scientists at NASA decided not to insert thermometers into their astronaut’s arses anymore, and came up with a speedy and less intrusive alternative. The infrared ear thermometer accurately reads the amount of energy, or heat in this case, that your ear canal gives off and will produce a result in just under two minutes.
In 1940, NASA developed a chemical process that could remove toxic waste from used dialysis fluid, reducing the cost of the process dramatically. Then, they implemented a safe and efficient way to use the same process to remove toxins from the blood, just like a kidney does. They refined the machine and within a matter of months had created the very first dialysis machine, improving quality of life for thousands of people across the globe with kidney problems.
Bullied, dentally-impaired teenagers across the globe owe a debt of gratitude to the lovely scientists at NASA, as they were the first institution to create the material needed for the transparent brace. The non-corrosive, extra strong and clear material called transparent polycrystalline alumina (TPA) was originally developed to protect the infrared antennae of heat-seeking missile trackers, but was soon snapped up by Unitek, an orthodontic development company, who transformed it into a more subtle alternative to the metal gear we are all so unfortunately familiar with. Due to its instant popularity, the clear brace is the most successful product in the orthodontic industry.
Housewives worldwide, give a cheer for NASA, the inventor of the cordless Hoover. The space administration teamed up with Black & Decker back in the 60s to refine the battery powered tools needed to obtain rock and soil samples from the moon, ensuring it expended as little energy as possible from the short life batteries. As they developed a longer-lasting battery, and a computer program that reduces the power used per battery unit, more and more commercial companies cottoned onto the technology, and created an array of cordless household tools, including vacuum cleaners. Unfortunately the almighty Roomba stayed popular for all of five minutes, with its primary purpose swiftly changing from cleaning a house to entertaining people with Youtube accounts.
500 channels and there’s nothing decent on, thanks to NASA. Initially developed to focus on the weather across the globe, the satellite system was manipulated to pick up different kinds of signals, allowing broadcasts to be sent to any TV in the world.
The human body cannot survive without water, and the middle class human cannot survive without Brita-filtered water. Originally created to reduce bacterial growth, and therefore the spread of disease during space missions, the water filter has now become a regular sight in almost every home in the western world. Chunks of activated charcoal containing silver ions neutralise bacteria and filter out impurities, leaving us with impeccably clean water. Impressively, similar technology has been developed on a larger scale to aid in the cleaning of water in third world countries.
NASA is also helping you sleep at night. Those poor little astronauts are apparently very delicate souls indeed, and needed a bit of extra padding in their seats to lessen impact during landings, so along came NASA with a nifty open cell polyurethane – silicone plastic, commonly known as Tempur, and created a material that distributes pressure, absorbs shock and feels incredibly cosy soft. Seeing a gap in the mattress market, NASA sold the material and crafted the most comfortable bed the world has ever known.
Breast Cancer Scanner
Breast cancer mammography scans have saved countless lives, yet still hold numerous flaws regarding early detection. Mammograms detect the calcification of cancerous cells, a process that only occurs well into their development, meaning that malignant tumours can be growing for weeks or even months before they’re found. Now thanks to an ultra-sensitive heat detector, created by NASA, we can read temperature changes smaller than .01 degrees Celsius, which occur when the blood supply changes in the body to feed a tumour. The temperature of cancerous tissue rises as soon as the cells appear, and with this incredibly accurate detection software, we will be able to find and treat the disease before it begins to take hold of the body.