March 6, 2012
How NASA Technology Affects The Consumer
On July 29, 1958, the U.S. government formed National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in the midst of a growing concern over the Soviet Union's advancement in space exploration.
Now, 53 years later, the Cold War is over and about $525 billion has been poured into the program designed to take man beyond Earth's atmosphere, and explore the depths of the night sky.
To any space enthusiast, $525 billion may sound like a small price to pay for the output of projects like the Hubble Space Telescope. However, to those who are unimpressed with images taken of our celestial neighbors, it sounds like a phenomenal amount of money to spend on reaching goals and establishing space boundaries.
So let´s look beyond press releases and images, and take a more in depth look at how the 53-year-old space agency has changed the lives of consumers today.
For Those Who Travel
NASA has spent a large portion of its budget in developing vehicles that can take humanity to new heights in space vehicles, but developments in this specialized industry have leaked into other forms of transportation.
Heinz Erzberger helped lead a NASA team to develop software that was adopted by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), saving time and improving fuel economy.
The "Direct Routes" software has been implemented at traffic control centers across the U.S., and Boeing claims it saves tens of thousands of minutes per year for a medium-sized U.S. Operator, as well as about 20 million gallons of fuel per year, or $50 million per year, for commercial airlines.
For The Electronics Consumer
One of NASA's biggest impacts in the electronic industry is its development into how batteries are charged.
The space agency partnered with Advanced Power Electronics Corporation to develop an advanced solar power converter for space systems.
Through this project, they were able to develop algorithms to create a solar charger that charges batteries 30 percent faster than other devices.
For The Environmentally Conscience
Perhaps one of NASA's biggest contributions beyond space exploration may be to the environmentalist.
NASA's Space Shuttle Main Engine, which flew during the shuttle program, helped influence Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne's clean energy gasification technology.
The capital cost to build a commercial plant using this technology is estimated to be 10 to 20 percent less, and is expected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by up to 10 percent more.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory has also helped improve weather forecasts, monitor climate change, and enhance space weather research through receivers built for Earth science.
For The Electronic Consumer
NASA's work with Colorado-based TerreMetrics Inc. Helped develop a satellite imagery and terrain data software featured in Google Earth, as well as a 3D terrain-rendering engine that enables synthetic vision solutions for aircraft.
Space Micro Inc. Was funded by NASA to develop a series of high-performance, radiation-hardened computers for space.
Today, the company has grown from 4 employees to 43 and become an $8 million company, providing computer chips for satellites and electronic devices in space.
It is computer chips like this that help power satellites to allow smartphones, cars and other devices to use location services like Google Maps and FourSquare.
Cloud computing has also felt the effects of the U.S. space program. Hitachi Data Systems now offers NASA-derived technology to provide cloud computing for multiple businesses and healthcare providers.
NASA has also worked with Mainstream Engineering Corporation to develop an advanced thermal control technology, which resulted in products being created that improve air conditioner performance and filtration.
For Those Who Hope To Stay Healthy
Dan Carter and colleagues mapped the atomic structure of albumin, an important blood protein, for the first time while working at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center.
Mapping albumin's atomic structure enabled Carter to create a company that has helped open up new possibilities for fine-tuning cancer treatments, reducing the amount of drugs required for an effective dose of chemotherapy.
A bioreactor built by NASA allows for healthier, more natural-forming cell cultures. This advancement enables drug development and medical research into treatment for conditions like diabetes and cancer.
Impact Instrumentation Inc. was influenced by NASA to make advances in medical ventilator technology that is now incorporated into emergency medical solutions for soldiers and civilians.
Through many avenues of research and development, NASA has made huge strides of advancements in many fields of technology. Though the impacts may not be directly labeled with that blue circle logo, the U.S. space agency has had effects that have been and will continue to be incorporated into everyone's life.
On the Net:
- Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)
- Advanced Power Electronics Corporation
- Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne
- TerreMetrics Inc
- Google Earth
- Space Micro Inc.
- Google Maps
- Hitachi Data Systems
- Mainstream Engineering Corporation
- Impact Instrumentation Inc