10 NASA Spin-off Technologies Resulting From the Space Race

Added by Andrew Tyson on Jan 14, 2019
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Keyhole surgery

The development of the Da Vinci robotic system is considered one of the most significant advances in surgery in the past decade. This system allows for minimally invasive (keyhole) surgery through a computer interface controlling small instruments through minimal incisions. This technology was originally developed by NASA in order to allow the best surgeons to perform necessary operations on astronauts who are in space. This type of surgery improves vision for the surgeon, while the robotic arms are more flexible than a surgeon’s wrist. Surgeries performed by this method have resulted in less blood loss on average, meaning less blood transfusion necessary; shortened post-operative stays; and faster return to pre-operative abilities. Essentially, it has made surgery faster, easier, less painful, and easier to bounce back from.

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Improved radial tires

While radial tires have been around for a long time, developed in the early 20th century, they have changed quite a bit. Developments in design and materials have helped to create stronger tires. During the development of the Viking Lander spacecraft, Goodyear developed a strong fibrous material for the parachute shrouds. They noted the durability of the material, and adapted it for use in their radial tires. As a result, Goodyear was able to immediately improve the tread life of their radial tires by almost 10,000 miles.

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Water purification

Water is the most valuable commodity on the planet, as it is absolutely necessary for every human to have a good supply of clean drinking water in order to live well. One of the first problems NASA had to address for the international space station was to provide a long-term supply of portable water for the astronauts, including the ability to produce water in a closed system. The water filtration systems that resulted from this has been modified for civilian use, and is currently used around the world to create drinkable water in areas where the current water sources are heavily contaminated.

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Monitoring and testing food production

To provide food for the space program, NASA contacted Pillsbury to develop a method by which they could ensure that any food sent into space was free of toxins or bacterias that could cause disease. Pillsbury then developed a process called the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point concept. This concept prevents food contamination and safety problems instead of addressing them after the fact. Some of these processes were then adopted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as standards for the handling of seafood, juice, and dairy products.

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Scratch-resistant Lenses

Diamond is the hardest substance known to man, but it is also extremely costly. The technology to coat a lens with diamond-like carbon was developed in order to make helmet visors harder and more able to withstand the rigors of space, as well as reducing surface friction so that water will shed more easily to reduce spotting. This same technology was then adapted for use in the sunglass industry in order to produce sunglass lenses that were less likely to scratch.

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