A Look at 7 Real-World Technologies that Started at NASA, in Honor of Apollo’s 50th Anniversary

We all know NASA has accomplished incredible feats in the fields of aerospace research, engineering, and exploration. However, here on Earth, NASA’s influence reaches further than you’d think. As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon program, it’s important to acknowledge the great contributions this organization has made to modern life as we know it – whether by venturing into the great beyond, or making life safer, easier, and more sustainable on our own home planet.

Throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, the technologies developed at NASA for space missions have been frequently co-opted for an array of civil applications. From everyday household products like mini vacuum cleaners to global problem-solvers like oil spill cleanup devices, to our very own Eagle Eyes sunglasses, practical examples of NASA’s technological advancements can be found in nearly every segment of modern life. Read on for a list of surprising items that originated from our nation’s most innovative government agency.

Portable Cordless Vacuum Cleaners
Your little vacuum got its start on the moon! For the Apollo 11 moon landing mission, NASA worked with Black & Decker to create a device that could efficiently extract particle samples from below the moon’s surface. Later, the company used a similar concept in their housewares department to develop the Dustbuster® cordless vacuum.

Memory Foam
Also known as “temper foam,” this uniquely firm-yet-squishy, shock-absorbing material was first developed by NASA in the 1970s to protect aircraft passengers in the case of a crash. Since then, it’s worked its way into a varied array of products, from household mattresses and pillows to car cushions, sports gear, horseback saddles, and beyond.

Firefighting Gear
Many elements of municipal firefighting gear have been improved by NASA technologies. Firefighters often wear a lightweight breathing system made from an aluminum composite that was originally developed for rocket casings. Fireproof suits are frequently constructed from the same fabric used to protect space shuttles during re-entry into the atmosphere. And the two-way radio system used during fire rescue missions operates on an inductorless electronic circuit, a technology first developed by NASA for its own missions. 

Oil Spill Cleanup
NASA’s microencapsulation technology has been incorporated into a wide array of applications, from anti-corrosive lubricants to site-specific cancer treatments. One notable example is beeswax microencapsulations, which have been instrumental in cleaning up oil spills for the past 25 years. When released at the site of the spill, these hollow wax capsules absorb oil and repel water, floating to the ocean’s surface where they can be collected and removed. This seemingly simple solution has significantly reduced the environmental impact of petroleum-based pollutants in the ocean.

Drinking Water Purifiers
NASA’s water purification system converts wastewater from urine, sweat, and breath into clean, potable drinking water. It might sound gross, but it’s been a literal lifesaver for astronauts living on the International Space Station, and on Earth in communities with limited access to clean water. As the global water supply diminishes, this technology might become more commonplace, but fear not – the water this system creates is actually purer than the majority of the planet’s drinking water.

LASIK Surgery
It sounds crazy, but the method used to perform LASIK eye surgery is actually based on the laser radar system NASA employs to dock space vehicles to service satellites. Apparently, a very similar process is used to refocus and reshape the cornea during LASIK. We can’t claim we fully understand it, but we’ll go ahead and trust the experts on this one.

Eagle Eyes Sunglasses
We can’t talk about applied NASA technologies without mentioning ourselves, can we? Eagle Eyes sunglasses are all manufactured with lenses crafted from original NASA optic technology that blocks blue light, which was developed to reduce the impact of solar radiation on human eyesight. To do this, NASA scientists studied the vision of eagles and hawks, specifically their ability to distinguish prey from the surrounding environment with extreme precision.

The findings? Special oil droplets in raptor eyes alter the wavelengths of light the birds receive, filtering out harmful radiation and increasing clarity at great distances. Eventually, these scientists were able to replicate this quality into a specially designed lens technology. It was this technology that sparked the founding of Eagle Eyes and our full line of high-performance eyewear, which counts NASA astronaut and physicist Walt Cunningham as a loyal fan.

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From this list, you can see that Eagle Eyes and countless items we rely on every day would not exist without NASA’s awe-inspiring technological advancements. From space exploration and intergalactic discoveries to pragmatic solutions for Earth’s very tangible problems, the impact of NASA’s work continues to amaze and inspire. Here’s to another 50 years of exploration, curiosity, and innovation. We can’t wait to see where NASA lands next.

 

REFERENCES:
https://spinoff.nasa.gov/Spinoff2008/tech_benefits.html
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NASA_spinoff_technologies#Firefighting_equipment
https://www.eagleeyes.com/pages/about-us

 


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