NASA Inventions: From Space to You


On this date in 1958, President Dwight Eisenhower signed the National Space and Aeronautics Act, which authorized the formation of NASA.

Here are a few technologies that you may not have known were created or developed for the American space program.

Grooved pavement was developed to increase runway safety in the rain. The technology has made its way to highways around the world, where it helps reduce skidding and increases cornering ability.

Goodyear used technology it developed working on parachute cords for a Martian lander to increase tread life in its tires by 10,000 miles.

A system called Thermawing allows single-engine aircraft to warm their wings like larger jets do to avoid icing over.

Infrared ear thermometers were developed to allow a patient’s temperature to be taken without internal contact, using technology similar to what NASA uses to measure the temperature of stars and planets.

Several NASA innovations in the fields of robotics and shock absorption have led to advances in artificial limb technology.

Transparent ceramics originally used to protect infrared antennas are now used to make clear orthodontic braces.

If you drop your sunglasses and they don’t get scratched, you have NASA to thank for that. It developed technology for space helmet visors that has since been licensed for use by the general public.

Space blankets — the giant pieces of foil you see at the finish line of every marathon and in most first-aid kits — were developed by NASA in 1964.

Memory foam mattresses use technology originally intended to improve crash protection for airline passengers.

Your Dustbuster portable vacuum cleaner was developed by Black & Decker as part of another project to build a portable drill for the Apollo missions.

Now, here are some things that were not invented by NASA, but are commonly believed to have been.

Tang juice powder was invented by General Foods in 1957. However, it was used on early missions into space, which is where the association comes from.

Velcro was invented in Switzerland in the 1940s. NASA used it extensively, but didn’t develop it.

And finally, Teflon was in common use in frying pans by the 1950s, long before being used by NASA on space suits and heat shields.

Our question: What did early American astronauts use to write in space?

We’ll have the answer after this break.


Today is International Tiger Day, National Thai Language Day in Thailand; and National Anthem Day in Romania.

It’s unofficially National Lasagna Day, National Lipstick Day, and National Talk In An Elevator Day.

It’s the birthday of actress Clara Bow, who was born in 1905; professional wrestler “Captain” Lou Albano, who was born in 1933; and filmmaker Ken Burns, who turns 63 today.

Because our topic happened before 1960; we’ll spin the wheel to pick a year at random.

This week in 1968, the top song in the U.S. was “Grazing in the Grass” by Hugh Masekela.

The No. 1 movie was “Rosemary’s Baby,” while the novel “Airport” by Arthur Hailey topped the New York Times Bestsellers list.



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