The U.S. space agency recently celebrated its 60th anniversary and has big plans for decades to come. But the research carried out has continued to trickle down to our home through the invention of many everyday useful objects.
Although it is now competing with new players, NASA still enjoys a glorious reputation. The agency recently celebrated its 60th anniversary by releasing a rather epic video, in which it discusses its greatest accomplishments and future projects.
Despite its immense success, the lunar conquest was also marked by strong protests. Many voices have been outraged at the human and financial cost of such operations, which uses some of the taxpayer’s money. With $20.7 billion in 2018, the U.S. agency still has the largest budget of any space agency. And the latter is still the subject of debate.
These years of very expensive research have not been in vain, however, and have contributed greatly to the appearance of objects that are very useful in everyday life. Whether it’s cities or the use of individuals, some inventions from NASA engineers provide us with valuable help. So we decided to share some of them that you might find in your immediate environment.
The table vacuum cleaner… And the modern drill
A favourite accessory of the 90s, the table vacuum has evolved since then. But this invention useful so as not to have to get out “heavy artillery” is intimately linked to the space agency. In order to extract small lunar rocks, NASA had to design a drill that did not require a power supply connected to the spacecraft and consumed as little energy as possible. This made it much easier to collect samples at different locations. The famous company Black and Decker has also helped by designing a program to optimize the operation of the drill. The development of these mobile and energy-efficient batteries allowed the firm to release the famous “Dustbuster” portable vacuum cleaner, which was a great success.
The ear thermometer
The ear thermometer went a long way before ending up in our pharmacy box! It is actually based on the astronomical thermometer, which uses infrared technology to calculate the temperature of stars. The energy released by the waves gives a very precise indication of the heat emitted. This useful method for recovering long-distance information also works for us. Specifically by calculating the energy produced by the eardrum. This prevents contact with mucous membranes and promotes infections. Ideal for sick patients and newborns.
The digital camera
The CMOS sensor (for Complementary metal oxide semiconductor) is the work of a team of engineers from NASA’s Jet Propulsory Lab, and we bet you use their invention very often. Realizing that the miniaturization of photo sensors was necessary to fit on the space modules, they developed the ancestor of our current devices. The principle is to capture photons via photosites engraved in a silicon substrate, which converts electromagnetic waves into electrical current. Tiny, energy-efficient and now very accurate, this sensor can be found in all our smartphones and digital cameras!
Pillows and memory mattresses
In the early 1960s, aeronautical engineer Charles Yost began working on technology to increase the safety of the pilot installed in the Apollo control module. The aim was to design seats (among other things) capable of tempering the shock of the landing. The use of a chemical compound based on polyurethane increased density and viscosity. This material (which reacts to body heat) was very effective in absorbing the impact during crashes, but also very useful since it was able to regain its shape after the fact. The pilots and passengers later adopted them, as they made long journeys more comfortable by better distributing the weight of the body over the seats. The memory foam form was born. It is now very frequently used for our mattresses, cushions or pillows.
The Nike Air Max sneaker
One of the most famous pairs of sneakersof the world also descends from the work (derived!) of the firm. In search of a technology that provides better cushioning for runners Bill Bowerman and Phil Knight, Nike’s founders will accept the services of Marion Franklin Rudy. The former NASA engineer believes his work on protective layers of helmets for astronauts can be used to revolutionize the sports sole. Faced with competitors who use only foam, he decides to integrate a unit of air that will remain stuck in the shoe. The latter allows to regain the original shape of the sole even after intensive use. If the first model (the Air Tailwind) struggles to convince, it will not be the case of Air Force One and Air Jordan, widely popularized by basketball players. The famous designer Tinker Hatfield will immortalize the idea with his talent. Inspired by the Beaubourg Museum in Paris, which offers a view of the bowels of the building, he decides to show this famous air bubble: The Air Max 1 was born!