Space travel and the study of the known universe has improved the well-being of us earthlings, too.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has had a lot of feathers in its hat. Thanks to NASA, countless technologies and inventions have been introduced which have helped to make human life easier and better.
NASA has made countless contributions towards consumer innovation, be it technology or products, which is worth acknowledging. Here are the top 5.
First widely available self-driving tractors
Self-driving tractors first appeared nearly a decade ago. They were developed by John Deere and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) on GPS receivers. Deere had been already using GPS to calculate crop yields. The goal was to develop a technology that would enable tractors to function autonomously. Meanwhile, NASA had built a reliable GPS system for pilots. In 2003, Deere, with communication company NavCom Technology, perfected the system, which was accurate to an inch or so.
However, the system wasn’t trustworthy as it frequently lost the radio signal. Fortunately for Deere, NavCom had a contract with JPL to use their GPS, and Deere could use the GPS for their software, giving the world the first widely available self-driving tractors.
Mini Heat Pipes to Wick away Heat during Brain Surgery
Neurosurgery has saved an innumerable number of lives. One essential tool of the operation is bipolar forceps. However, this tool has caused concern, as it produces excessive heat which can cause tissue damage during surgery.
To avoid excessive heat, tools were developed by NASA, which are now being used in brain surgery. It is called the Mini Heat Pipe. The pipes contain liquid, which gets heated up and then evaporates. The vapors move to the cooler, where heat is lost through convection.
Ultra-sensitive radar technology
The US Military had been using a technology that could detect biohazards in an area. Now, scientists from NASA have drawn inspiration from the technology with the creation of an instrument which will be able to detect life signatures. The plan is to use this instrument on Mars!
The instrument is called BILI – or the Bio-Indicator Lidar Instrument. BILI is based on fluorescence lidar, which is a kind of remote-sensing instrument. It takes the use of light to discover and evaluate particles and their composition in the atmosphere.
While NASA has already employed fluorescence instruments to detect chemicals on earth, the same hasn’t yet been done for celestial bodies.
Photogrammetry is the process in which photographs are used to make measurements. Scientists at NASA take use of this method to better understand issues and evaluate past accidents to create safer air and space crafts.
Using this technique and the employment of two synchronized cameras, scientists create models of accidents to record the impact. A software then assesses the materials and its deformation to determine the cause of the accident in the event.
Oxidation to neutralize bacteria and viruses
A gas leak in southern California could have forced thousands to relocate. However, it was Aerus Air Scrubber Plus, an air purifier, that prevented the mass relocation. The air purifier was based on an invention by NASA.
In the 1990s, Space Product Development Program had chanced upon a solution to this particular problem. The solution, photocatalytic oxidation, saved the day then and later in California.
In this process, upon the inducement of ultraviolet light on titanium dioxide, electrons are released that turn moisture and oxygen into charged hydroxyl ions. These charged particles then oxidize contamination present into carbon dioxide and water.
Companies then took advantage of this technique to develop air purifiers.