As the final Space Shuttle flight prepares to land later this morning, we look back at some of its technology that’s found its way into our everyday lives.
For example, a tiny heart pump, developed from Space Shuttle fuel pump technology has helped more than 200 patients enjoy a fuller life. The tiny pump is just 1 inch in diameter and weighs less than 4oz.
And your home insulation could be benefiting from the same material used to insulate cryogenics on the Space Shuttle. Many times thinner and more effective than typical fibreglass insulation, it can be handled and installed in exactly the same manner without the need for specialist tools.
Thanks to explosive charges that separate the Shuttle from its boosters, a miniature version has been developed into a handheld cutter for emergency crews to remove people trapped in their cars following an accident. It’s lightweight, requires no auxiliary power or cumbersome hoses and NASA tells us costs 70% less than previous rescue equipment.
And finally, lighting technology originally designed for plant experiments onboard the Shuttle is being used in photodynamic therapy. Children suffering from brain tumours may receive relief from this lighting technology.
And the list goes on… Vehicle insulation, environmentally friendly lubricants, firefighting infra-red cameras, land mine removal devices, video stabilisation software (used successfully by law enforcement agencies) and even a new material for producing prosthetics moulds.
NASA’s very proud of the ‘spin-off’s’ that have found their way into everyday domestic applications and whilst some opponents have always drawn attention to the massive costs of space exploration, I for one think the benefits, not including the knowledge we’ve gained, have made it a very worthwhile exercise indeed.
This article appeared in our weekly homeowner newsletter (dated 18th July 2011). Click here to read the full newsletter.
photo credit: paul t / NASA