Sunday, July 18, 1999
NASA research is spinoff city
BY MARK CURNUTTE
The Cincinnati Enquirer
From scores of communication and weather satellites to the wire that braces children's teeth and the insulated soles of $100 sneakers, the U.S. space program has yielded hundreds of down-to-earth applications that today shape daily life.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has given the country far more than Velcro, Teflon and Tang, say the space agency's supporters.
Critics maintain that space research and development $24 billion alone over eight years to get a man on the moon took too much from more pressing urban renewal and social programs.
Here are some of the direct applications and spinoff developments of the space program:
Around the house
The cordless drill used to recover lunar soil samples has evolved into a wide range of cordless tools, including the Dustbuster.
Many features in high-tech athletic shoes insulated cushions and air pumps were borrowed from the moon boots worn by astronauts.
Stronger, lightweight metals used in satellites have been adapted by orthodontists for braces.
The hundred-plus satellites now in orbit relay tens of thousands of telephone calls and transmit dozens of television signals simultaneously.
Digital image-enhancing technologies created by NASA in an effort to have accurate satellite pictures of prospective lunar landing sites are now used in scanners that see into the body without surgery.
Biomedical telemetry originally developed to keep NASA doctors in Houston apprised of astronauts' condition in space is now used to transmit patients' vital signs to nurses' stations.
The Teflon-coated fiber weave used in spacesuits to protect astronauts from extreme temperatures has been adapted to clothing that helps cool the bodies of people born without sweat glands.
(The material has been refined by its maker, Owens-Corning, and is now used in suits that protect race car drivers and to roof domed stadiums).
The 841 pounds of breccia, feldspar and basalt lifted by Apollo astronauts from the lunar surface have told researchers much about the origins of Earth's nearest neighbor and helped open a window into the earliest moments of the solar system.
Meteorological satellites monitor the ozone and other atmospheric conditions critical to sustaining life on Earth.
Telescopes NASA launched into space beyond the interference of the atmosphere have established the existence of black holes, confirmed the Big Bang theory of the origin of the universe and spotted what might be planets growing around distant stars.
Mariner, Pioneer, Voyager and Magellan satellites have visited every planet in the solar system except Pluto mapping Venus, landing on Mars and scoping out previously unseen asteroids and moons.
A joint European-American satellite, Ulysses, viewed the sun from a new angle, perpendicular to the plane of the solar system, from beneath the sun's south pole.
Lighter-weight bulletproof vests were adapted from another space fabric, Kevlar.
Using radar, a NASA spaceship detected the bed of an ancient river hidden below the Egyptian desert. Water was found 325 feet beneath the sand. A reclamation project is under way that, NASA predicts, will support agriculture for 200 years.
Taken from the moon during Apollo 11, the first pictures of Earth a swirling blue, green and white ball against a vast black backdrop of space helped unite the ecology movement.
The Moon Landing: 30 Years Later
Neil Armstrong, The Reluctant Hero
Lebanon's code of silence shields Armstrong
Landing's legacy is still being created
Still to come: the moon, Mars and beyond
NASA research is spinoff city
Flight abounded with drama
Infographic: The descent of the Eagle
Where the moonwalkers are now
Ohio leads nation in number of astronauts
Cyberspace a great resource for outer space
Special multimedia section from Associated Press