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Technological Spinoffs - Spinoffs of the Space Program - by Jim Sam

The beginning of space technology being applied to domestic needs began with the developments associated with the Apollo Project, for which many of the technologies were developed. This program, in short, was the brainchild of President John Kennedy. It was designed to put an American on the moon, a goal first set by Kennedy.  From this project many products, common to daily life in America have been created or modified. The Apollo and later NASA projects all expanded man's knowledge of the universe, but it also made life on Earth more convenient and comfortable. 

Scratch-resistant Lenses

Scratch-resistant lenses were developed by NASA by applying a diamond-like Image from LensCrafters.com lubricating coat over plastic lenses. This application was originally used in the space program in a "dual ion-beam bonding process."[1] Today, the coating is still used on hard resin plastic used in most eye glasses that people wear everyday. 

Freeze-Dried Food

Humans need food, and astronauts in space are no exception. To keep food fresh that would feed the astronauts, NASA adopted the practice of freeze-drying food. Previously, the technology had been "developed originally for preserving plasma during World War II."[3] This process proved effective on food and allowed for extended manned space flights such as the Apollo flights.  In the process, the food is frozen and then most of the moisture is removed from the frozen object. The moisture is removed by sublimation; it turns into a vapor before a liquid. The process works best on liquids, thin slices of meat, and small objects like peas.[2]

Athletic Shoes

Technology originally developed for the boots worn on the moon, has now been applied toImage taken from NIKE athletic shoes in the mid-sole section. The technology improves shock absorption, stability, and motion control. The sneaker industry has also used this technology to try to brainwash consumers into believing they need this commodity, creating a social spin-off of its own.

CAT & MRI Technologies

The entire purpose of the early Apollo missions was to choose a suitable landing ground for the first man on the moon. To do this, they needed technology that could photograph the moon's surface. NASA created this technology, and from it scientists developed Computer-Aided Topography (CAT) and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) technologies. Today, CAT scanners and MRIs are used in hospitals world-wide.

Cool Suits

Image taken from I/O Port Racing SuppliesAs with athletic shoes, part of the astronauts' outfits was adapted for non-space purposes. This feature of the astronauts' outfit was the suit itself. The suit was designed to keep astronauts at a comfortable temperature while working in space. Today, the same concept is behind the suits that race car drivers, nuclear reactor technicians, shipyard workers, people with multiple sclerosis, and sufferers of hypo-hydrotic ectodermic dysphasia wear to keep themselves comfortable.[2]

Cordless Power Tools

While on the moon and working in deep space, the astronauts would need to perform many tasks to gatherImage taken from Jepson Power Tools scientific data concerning the surface of the moon. Often in these tasks, they needed mechanical help.  Neither traditional tools nor power tools of that era would work. Traditional tools would not provide enough assistance, and power tools could not be used due to their cord restrictions. Thus, NASA developed a way for power tools to be used without cords. Today, cordless power tools are everywhere.  Uses for these tools have proved extremely versatile and beneficial to society.  People use them to construct homes and conduct other projects, such as making repairs.

Interest In Space

The space program also has another interesting spin-off. That spin-off is society's infatuation with space and aliens. The space program created serious interest in outer space. This interest has now permeated every aspect of life from movies (such as 2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Trek, and Star Wars) to picks for guitarists.  Merchandise from the trend has spawned several trends and generated gigantic profits for companies that take advantage of this fascination society has.


Conclusion

Spin-offs from the space program are not limited to the products featured here. Some other spin-offs include, but are not limited to: the dust buster, golf ball technology, virtual reality, micro lasers, and the self-inflating life raft. With all these products a result of the space program, one can only imagine what future spin-offs will be. People experiment with every invention; its inevitable. Products designed for space use also have been experimented with and mutilated to be of use to people on Earth. These spin-offs have changed modern life as mankind knows it. Many houses would not be built, sneakers would be uncomfortable, eye glasses would scratch easier, and life would be basically more complicated had NASA not developed many of these innovations for their astronauts.

by Jim Sam

RESOURCES - 

[1] NASA spin-offs - http://www.thespaceplace.com/nasa/spinoffs.html

[2] Apollo's contributions to America - http://www.sti.nasa.gov/tto/apollo.htm

[3]. Maclinn, Walter A. The Encyclopedia Americana: International Edition, Vol. 12. Grolier. Danbury, Connecticut. (Page 51)

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