By Philip J Reed on behalf of Exede, a nationwide satellite Internet provider
NASA is known for landing people on the moon and helping an entire generation dream of new horizons. However, many people don’t realize how the space program has impacted nearly every facet of our society. Over the years, NASA’s technological advances have been quietly integrated into everyday life, fundamentally changing how people communicate, eat, sleep and travel.
Sneakers are so comfortable to wear because NASA required a durable and shock-absorbing material to protect astronauts during lift-off and reentry, when they could experience forces up to 7.19 g.
While the human body always deals with 1 g on the ground, sneaker insoles help support feet by cushioning against blows and providing arch support. Insoles also return to their original shape after the sneakers are taken off, so they can be used over and over without becoming permanently compressed.
Fires are bad enough here on Earth, but they pose an even deadlier threat in space since astronauts have no avenue of escape. In the event of a fire, every second counts.
First using a radioactive isotope, smoke detectors today determine if smoke is present by shining a tiny beam of light inside the detector’s case. Smoke will block that beam of light, and the detector sounds a loud alarm. The original detectors aboard space vessels included the ability to detect other toxic gases.
Every single water filter found in pitchers and refrigerators uses technology developed by NASA to deliver clean drinking water to astronauts during lengthy space missions. The average human being requires about four pounds of water each day, and every single pound matters when it costs thousands of dollars per pound to transport materials into space.
Instead of shipping dozens or hundreds of gallons of water, NASA developed the modern water filter, combining charcoal with silver ions to cleanse water of bacteria and other contaminants. The technology was so astounding at the time that it’s still used in its original form today.
Satellite Radio, TV and Internet
It should come as no surprise that modern satellite technology owes its entire existence to NASA. The agency developed the first American satellite designs and the rockets that would transport them into orbit.
NASA also needed a way to communicate with astronauts who were hundreds of thousands of miles away, and that same technology is used today to communicate with the rovers on Mars and even Voyager-1, an unmanned vessel on the verge of leaving the solar system.
Satellite communications are used today for television and radio services such as DirecTV and Sirius XM. Satellite Internet is not as widely used, but it still offers broadband speeds to millions of customers who cannot connect to cable, DSL or fiber-optic networks.
Anyone who has driven while tired has probably felt the rumble of grooving on the side of the road. NASA originally developed road grooving for use on runways to help pilots steer aircraft on wet surfaces.
After pilots applauded the effort, pavement grooving was adapted for automobile roads. In many ways, road grooving is as important a safety development as speed limits and guardrails. Current NASA estimates reveal that road grooving prevents nearly 85 percent of all road accidents.
As evidenced by the last example, NASA is responsible for more than just high-tech advances in society. The agency also comes up with simple, low-tech ideas to improve safety and convenience, and it is because of these advances that continued funding of the space program is in our collective best interest.