In the 61st year of space exploration, mankind has a permanent foothold in Earth orbit aboard the International Space Station, all of us marveling at the technical achievement.
But you might wonder how conquering outer space helps Joe and Jane America on Earth? Isn’t it a waste of tax dollars to send people into orbit, send rockets to planets and dream of mining asteroids?
That money spent in space could be better spent right in our own communities! Right? Wrong.
Truth is, you can’t get away from direct spinoffs from America’s space program. Within your arm’s reach are many positive results from NASA’s somewhat puny annual budget.
That’s right, I’m calling Congress’ $20 billion-a-year budget for NASA a paltry sum. And armed with the proper facts…I think you’ll agree. Studies show that for every dollar he government spends on NASA, the economy is boosted $7-14 dollars!
A list of the modern-day conveniences that have come from six decades of the Space Age would easily fill the pages of this Loafer magazine. So, I’ll just hit the highlights.
The spinoffs from space exploration fall into seven main categories: computer technology; consumer/home/recreation; environmental and resource management; health and medicine; industrial productivity/manufacturing technology; public safety; transportation.
First, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration is not just rocket launches. A good one-fourth of NASA’s annual budget is used for research into all aspects of aviation—from private pilots to commercial airlines.
And what about that $20 billion budget? Well, that costs the American taxpayer less than a penny out of every dollar Congress appropriates. Indeed, Americans spend much more money on pizza and ice cream—each about a $25 billion a year business.
One area of our lives you don’t think about much where the NASA culture has made a major impact is the organization of today’s corporate and manufacturing businesses. The early years of the space program spawned the management flow chart, an outline of accountability that makes people put their expertise on the line. From that sprang implementation of NASA’s system and checks and balances to alleviate bad products or poor management decisions.
In fact, the retail “bar code” was invented by NASA in the 1960s to track the millions of parts in a Saturn V rocket and the manned Apollo Command and Lunar Module spacecrafts.
Our nation’s power plants run more efficiently and the measures to stem factory pollution of our air, land and waterways have roots in NASA.
Other NASA inventions that directly affect our lives include:
• Though a Frenchman invented Velcro fastener strips, NASA popularized them as the best way to keep anything in place in weightlessness.
• MRE food survival packets for hunters and adventurers were pioneered by dehydrating space food to save precious weight and space.
• Home baby monitors that send back information to hospitals about heart, respiratory and body temperature are the result of sending the same information about 1970s moonwalking astronaut 240,000 miles from the Moon.
• Digital technology has been pioneered by the need for sending images from interplanetary spacecraft millions of miles away. And those tiny lenses on our cell phones were pioneered by orbiters around Mars, Jupiter and Saturn.
• The engineering world from Formula 1 racing crew chiefs to bridge-building architects have benefited from countless NASA discoveries and refined construction materials in ways never imagined.
• Would you believe golf balls? Yup, NASA nerds figured out that a pattern of 500 dimples arranged in 60 spherical shapes will fly farther through the air than other golf balls.
• Anybody enjoy their cell phones or television on satellite or cable? You can thank dozens of communication satellites orbiting Earth.
• Don’t leave out the virtual reality simulators and games…and wireless technology like the Wii gaming systems.
• Can you say GPS navigators? That stands for Global Positioning Satellites…explanation enough. In fact, some experts believe the American military machine is too dependent on GPS technology for communications and weaponry accuracy.
Is that all the space program has done for me? Of course not. Here is a partial list of how NASA has improved our lives:
Dustbusters, shock-absorbing helmets, home security systems, smoke detectors, flat panel televisions, high-density batteries, trash compactors, food packaging and freeze-dried technology, cool sportswear, sports bras, hair styling appliances, fogless ski goggles, self-adjusting sunglasses, composite golf clubs, hang gliders, art preservation, quartz crystal timing equipment, whale identification method, environmental analysis, noise abatement, pollution measuring devices, pollution control devices, smokestack monitor, radioactive leak detector, earthquake prediction system, sewage treatment, energy saving air conditioning, air purification, arteriosclerosis detection, ultrasound scanners, automatic insulin pump, portable x-ray device, invisible braces, dental arch wire, palate surgery technology, clean room apparel, implantable heart aid, MRI, bone analyzer, cataract surgery tools, gasoline vapor recovery, self-locking fasteners, machine tool software, laser wire stripper, lubricant coating process, wireless communications, engine coatings, engine design, storm warning services (Doppler radar), firefighters’ radios, lead poison detection, fire detector, flame detector, corrosion protection coating, protective clothing, and robotic hands.
And, don’t forget safer bridges, emission testing, airline wheelchairs, electric car, auto design, methane-powered vehicles, windshear prediction, and aircraft design analysis, advanced keyboards, customer service software, database management system, laser surveying, aircraft controls, lightweight compact disc, expert system software, microcomputers, and design graphics.
Any more questions about what NASA has done for you?