30 Amazing NASA Inventions That We Use In Our Daily Life

Many countries put a lot of their money (in billions) into the space programs. The US has been the leader since 1958, – They spend more than $18 billion per year on National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Many people question if the money could be spent better in other areas or if investing in space research is even worth it…

The truth is NASA is doing much more than just studying outer space, since its inception. Today, you use a lot of products in your daily life that you probably didn’t know were the results of NASA research and development. We are highlighting a few amazing NASA inventions that we take for granted everyday.

30. Ear Thermometers

Ear Thermometers

Infrared technology is used to measure the temperature of the stars. The same technology is used in the ear thermometers (commonly used in hospitals) that captures our body temperature by detecting the amount of energy given off by the eardrum.

29. Shoe Insoles

shoe insoles

In late 1950’s, NASA invented 3D polyurethane foam fabric in boots to lessen the impact by adding spring and ventilation. Now, cushion insoles or the air pocket found in most athletic shoes.

28. Enriched baby food

Enriched baby food

NASA was experimenting with algae as a food supply for lengthy space trips. Eventually, they came to know that a compound of algae contains two fatty acids similar to those found in human breast milk, which further led to the development of Formulaid (an enriched infant formula).

27. Improved Mine Safety

Improved Mine Safety

NASA developed an ultrasonic bolt elongation monitor to test high pressure loads and tension on bolts and fasteners. A digital adaptation of the same device is being used in various applications such as groundwater analysis, non-destructive evaluation of railroad ties, radiation dosimetry and medical testing device. The applications continue to expand.

26. Safety Grooving

Safety GroovingImage source: wikimedia

The cutting of grooves in concrete (to increase traction) was discovered to reduce aircraft accidents on wet runways. The International Grooving and Grinding Association expanded this technique into pedestrian and highway applications, which helped to reduce the skidding and stopping distance and vehicle’s cornering ability on curves was increased.

25. Fire Resistant Reinforcement

Fire Resistant ReinforcementReinforced concrete

NASA funded Avco Corporation to develop a heat shield for the Apollo mission. The purpose was to dissipate energy during reentry while charring, to form a protective coating in order to block heat penetration. Avco Corporation developed other applications of the heat shield such as foams for aircraft, fire retardant paints and steel coatings devised to build high-rise buildings.

24. Pollution Remediation

Pollution Remediation

Pollution Remediation is microencapsulating technology developed by NASA. It has revolutionized the way oil spills are cleaned. Thousands of microcapsules (tiny balls of beeswax with hollow centers) safely clean petroleum based pollutants from water. Chemical compounds from crude oil (like petroleum hydrocarbons, fuels) are prevented from settling, limiting damage to ocean beds.

23. Anti-Icing Systems

Anti-Icing SystemsImage source: wikimedia

NASA advanced the development of integration of a thermo-electric deicing system, also known as Thermawing. It’s a DC power air conditioner for single engine aircraft that allows pilots to safely fly through ice encounters.

Read: 25+ Worst and Deadliest Airline Disasters in History

22. Remote Controlled Ovens

Remote Controlled Ovens

EWT software was developed by NASA in late 1990’s. The aim was to let International Space Station astronauts control a device remotely over the internet. Later, NASA furnished this technology to TMIO that designed a remote controlled intelligent oven.

21. Strong Lubricants

Strong Lubricants

NASA developed a solid oil-free lubricant known as PS300. It is able to reduce friction and emission and is capable of operating at high temperature with great reliability and low maintenance. Today, it is widely used in industrial application like electrical turbogenerators, refrigeration compressors etc.

20. Improved Radial Tires

Improved Radial Tires

NASA in collaboration with Goodyear and Rubber company developed a fibrous material which is five times stronger than steel. It was used in parachute shrouds to soft-land the Vikings on the Martian surface. Goodyear then expanded the technology and produced the new radial tires with tread life expectancy up to 10,000 miles greater than regular radials.

19. Structural Analysis Software

Structural Analysis Software

NASA has developed thousands of advanced computer programs to solve structural problems and automate a few of their tasks. The NASA structural analysis software (named NASTRAN) is one of them. It is extremely sophisticated program, complex analysis of design and predicts how various elements of the design will react in different conditions. The program is utilized to design Cadillacs, roller coasters and other complicated structures.

18. Video Enhancing and Analysis Systems

Video Enhancing and Analysis Systems

VISAR (Video Image Stabilization and Registration) is developed by NASA to help FBI agents analyze video footage accurately. It is used for enhancing video images from nighttime and videos recorded from cheap handheld devices. The tool also supports frame-by-frame analysis, stabilization, analog to digital conversion and better visibility without altering footage.

17. Invisible Braces

Invisible Braces

Teeth-straightening is less embracing these days and all credit goes to NASA Advanced Ceramics Research. To protect the infrared antenna of heat seeking missile trackers, they developed invisible (better say translucent) braces in collaboration with Ceradyne. These braces are a type of transparent ceramics called TPA (Translucent Polycrystalline Alumina).

16. OpenStack

OpenStackImage credit: wikimedia

NASA developed a cloud platform (Nebula) to give additional computation and storage resources for its engineers. This code was released as open source in 2010. NASA made a deal with Rackspace to form the OpenStack project, which is used in the cloud based product from many companies.

15. Chemical Detection

Chemical Detection

NASA along with IOS (Intelligent Optical Systems) developed moisture-sensitive and pH-sensitive sensors to detect and analyze corrosive condition in aircraft. The sensor changes color when it comes in contact with the chemical reactions in the aircraft. IOS further developed the sensors for detecting chemical warfare agents and possible threats.

14. Firefighting Equipment

Firefighting Equipment

NASA along with the National Bureau of Fire Standards developed a lightweight breathing system face mask, harness, frame and air bottle using an aluminum composite material designed for rocket casings. The breathing device is now used for protection from smoke inhalation injury and the inductorless electronic circuit technology (developed by NASA) is now used by firefighters as rugged, short-range two-way radio.

13. Scratch Resistant Lenses

Scratch Resistant Lenses - Amazing NASA Inventions

Anybody who wears glasses or ski goggles can associate with this one. NASA needed a special coating to protect their equipment in space from dirt. So they came up with their special plastic coating (astronaut helmet visor coatings) that makes the lenses ten times more scratch resistant.

12. Cordless Tools

Cordless ToolsImage credit: wikimedia

If you have ever used a cordless tool, you have NASA to thank for that. They developed a lightweight and powerful tool (battery operated motor drill) that could drill into the moon’s surface to get rock and soil samples.

11. Memory Foam

Memory Foam

Memory Foam is made of polyurethane with additional chemicals to increase its density and viscosity. It was designed for NASA aircraft seats to reduce the impact during landing by absorbing shocks. Now it is helping millions sleep better.

10. Space Blanket

Space blanketImage source: wikimedia

Space Blanket is low-weight, low-bulk blanket composed of heat reflective thin plastic sheeting. It is waterproof and windproof and designed to reduce the heat loss in a person’s body. It was first used by NASA in 1964. Also, these blankets are included in many emergencies, survival kits and first aid.

9. Freeze Drying

Freeze DryingImage credit: wikimedia

NASA did a lot of research on space food before Apollo mission. To keep the food fresh for a long period NASA and Nestle came up with the new concept called freeze drying. This is the process of dehydration of food in which food is frozen and surrounding pressure is reduced to allow the frozen water in food to sublimate (solid state to gaseous state).

8. Water Filters

Water Filters

NASA pioneered the technology to filter water and kill bacteria. To keep the water clean they invented a filter with activated charcoal that contains ions to neutralize pathogens in water.

7. LED

LEDImage credit: wikipedia

The LED (Light Emitting Diode) technology developed by NASA is used to grow plants in space. The same technology led to the development of useful medical devices including WARP 10 (high intensity LED unit). It is intended for the temporary relief of joint pain, minor muscles, stiffness and also increases the local blood circulation. Currently, it is being used by the U.S. Navy and U.S. Department of Defense.

6. Smoke Detector

Smoke Detector

You might have this life saving device installed in your home. Do you know that first adjustable smoke detector was invented by NASA? The aim was to let astronauts know if there is fire or toxic gases in air.

5. Ventricular Assist Device

Ventricular Assist DeviceImage credit: peh-med

The Ventricular Assist Device is a pump that is used to support blood flow and heart function of people who have weakened hearts. It is used during or after the heart surgery, while you are waiting for a heart plant or if patient is not eligible for heart plant. NASA developed this device in collaboration with Dr. George Noon, Dr. Michael DeBakey and MicroMed Technology.

4. LZR Racer Suit

LZR Racer SuitImage credit: wikimedia

The LZR Racer Suit is advanced swimsuit made of high-tech swimwear fabric composed of polyurethane and woven elastane-nylon. It holds body in a more hydrodynamic position, allows better oxygen flow to the muscles and ultrasonically welded to reduce drag. It was developed by Mectex using NASA fluid flow analysis software and wind tunnel testing facilities.

3. Solar Cells

Solar CellsImage credit: wikimedia

We all have seen solar cells on top of buildings, houses and even on our calculator. The technique of converting Sun’s energy into power source was started by NASA. They formed a 28 member union called ERAST (Environmental Research Aircraft and Sensor Technology). The goal was to develop an unmanned aircraft that could fly at high altitude for days by consuming Sun’s energy.

2. Artificial Limbs

Artificial LimbsImage credit: wikimedia

The technology helped thousands of physically challenged people live normal lives. In order to enhance the artificial muscle systems (to use in space robotics and extravehicular activities), NASA came up with artificial limbs.

Recommended: Gadgets Designed For People With Disabilities

1. Long Distance Telecommunication

Long Distance TelecommunicationImage credit: wikimedia

Before humans were sent into space, NASA developed and launched few satellites into Earth’s orbit to monitor space, spy on research and communicate with scientists on the ground. This technology was adapted to over two hundred satellites that connect all of us everyday.

Now Read: 10 Thrilling Space Projects Agencies working on

Written by
Varun Kumar

Varun Kumar is an experienced science and technology journalist interested in machines, AI, and space exploration. He received M.tech degree in computer science from Indraprastha University. To find out what his latest project is, feel free to directly email him at [email protected] 

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