The International Space Station seems remote and far away, and costs a lot to build and run. Sometimes we don't know, or don't think of, how much we benefit here on Earth from what NASA learns in space. The Station benefits everyone on the planet Earth!
The Space Station's benefits include developments in new metals, crystals and films, plus new fabrics, medicines and medical devices, detailed Earth maps, better foods, improved weather studies, new tools and much more.
The Station is our only permanent laboratory for research in the weightless environment of space. Scientists can make things in its microgravity that they can't do on Earth, such as growing near-perfect crystal and film materials for super-fast computers. Many benefits have already been realized while building and launching the Space Station and the Space Shuttle system.
In the future, people will manufacture materials, equipment, medicines, foods and more in the weightless conditions of space. The Space Station is also a permanent platform for observing Earth's features, environment, weather, cities and resources. These studies can tell us how we can live better on our planet.
A few of specific benefits that have come from NASA's space programs:
Sun Suits for Special Kids
NASA helped design some special suits for special children. There are a number of disorders that make it difficult or impossible for some children to go outside. Children with HED (hypohidrotic ectodermal dysplasia) lack sweat glands, which means they can easily become too hot, leading to heat exhaustion, heat stroke, or even death. And imagine how sad it would be to never see the Sun or play outside during the day. That's what life is like for children who have XP (Xeroderma Pigmentosum). They are extremely sensitive to light and must stay inside or only go out at night. But NASA has helped make life better for these children with special UV protection suits and cooling suits that regulate temperature.
The UV protective suits include a white jacket, pants, gloves, head gear and goggles. They protect the children's sensitive skin from more than 99.9 percent of the Sun's UV rays. Underneath the children wear small cooling systems because the full-body suits get very warm.
The non-profit HED Foundation (Hypohidrotic Ectodermal Dysplasia) is providing suits to children who need them. The Foundation's founder Sarah Moody says, "It is amazing to think that because NASA astronauts walk in space and on the moon, children can now play in the sun!" Sarah's foundation relies on donations to buy the expensive suits for children that need them.
A Better Airliner
NASA innovations in lightweight composite materials, the modern glass cockpit and flight control systems make Boeing's 777 jetliner a marvel. Working with NASA's field centers, the Boeing Company used space-related technologies ranging from Apollo flight controls to Space Shuttle cockpit design, engine and body materials.
NASA's Langley Research Center provided multiple technologies in airframe design, lightweight materials, wind tunnel tests, tire testing and engine noise reduction. At the Marshall Space Flight Center, tests to improve performance of Space Shuttle engines led to new, more efficient jet engines. And Glenn Research Center's studies into the Energy Efficient Engine resulted reduced engine noise and harmful emissions.
A New Heart Pump
A miniature heart blood pump has been successfully implanted into several dozen people. The NASA/DeBakey heart pump uses technology from Space Shuttle fuel pumps.
Scientists at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, along with the Baylor College of Medicine's Dr. Michael DeBakey and a medical research team, created the little battery-operated pump. It's just 2 inches long, 1 inch wide and weighs less than four ounces -- small enough to fit into a child's chest. It fulfills the need for a pump that can be implanted inside a patient.
The team also worked with NASA's Ames Research Center, analyzing Shuttle fuel-flow dynamics with super computers for the pump, in order to lessen damage to red blood cells and reduce the tendency for clots to form.
As part of its goal to transfer space-based technology to the private sector, NASA has licensed the pump to MicroMed Technology Inc. of Houston, TX, for development and marketing for public use.
Nerf Toy Designs
Aero Nerf® gliders are winging into toy stores, thanks to NASA's knowledge of how aircraft and spacecraft fly.
Toy makers at Hasbro, Inc., wanted to make a foam glider that even a child could fly. But their designs didn't soar well. So Hasbro linked with NASA engineers at Langley Research Center who were glider hobbyists themselves. They provided key information about wing design and glider shapes.
Hasbro's foam glider had to fly "as is", without making changes in any control surface. Its power had to come from a toss of the hand, without aid from a slingshot or other device.
Designers got NASA technical guidance on the physics of designing and flying gliders. NASA showed them where to place the wings, plus the correct angle for tail surfaces and how to shape the foam.
The result is Nerf gliders that can make long flights or perform loops and turns -- all from a simple throw. NASA helped this real toy story come true!
Author: Gil Knier Editor: Becky Bray