Space Exploration Enhances Life on Earth
The technologies required to meet the rigors of spaceflight, both human and robotic, produce down-to-Earth benefits that improve life in a wide range of ways, from improving the safety of air passenger traffic, to health care, air quality and public safety. Along the way they become the basis for new jobs.
Each year, NASA offers an accounting of these advances in an annual publication called “NASA Spinoff.” The 224 page, 2011 edition, which was published Tuesday, features the stories behind 44 of these breaththroughs..
“NASA missions have given the world extraordinary new knowledge about our planet and the universe. Sometimes, they have even challenged what we think we know,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “Along the way, the technologies and capabilities we have developed to enable those missions have transformed life on Earth.”
This potential was recognized by American policymakers when NASA was established in 1958 and even included in the legislative language creating the space agency.
” At NASA, the spinoff concept is not just a legislative mandate,” noted Bolden. “It is what we do — a way of translating the technologies of our air and space missions into societal benefits for people everywhere.”
Since its founding, NASA had documented nearly 1,800 spinoffs.
Expect more to come, as NASA expands the research under way aboard the International Space Station, sets its sights on the human exploration of asteroids and Mars and invests in new commercial space transportation systems.
The 2011 catalogue includes these highlights:
*Software from NASA’s Center-TRACON project has been adapted by the Federal Aviation Administration and its Air Traffic Control system to improve the routing of commercial airliners. Developed by an engineer atAmesResearchCenter, a software algorithm looks for potential shortcuts in the “real time” air traffic and alerts flight controllers of the opportunity to safely save travel time. During a demonstration in the air space surrounding the Dallas-Forth Worth inTexas, the algorithm was able to save 900 minutes a day in travel time. The software-aided short cuts also lead to fuel savings.
*Motion sickness is a common ailment among astronauts and it can lead to disorientation, even nausea. Medications help, but the side effects include unwanted drowsiness. After decades of study, NASA researchers have developed a biofeedback therapy. In one six hour session, most astronauts can monitor the onset of symptons and counter them. The technique depends on small sensors placed on their bodies. AMarylandcompany found a way to arrange the sensors on a harness or in a t-shirt. A similar device is now used to monitor the health and fitness of soldiers, pro athletes and public safety officers, even everyday men and women out to improve their fitness.
*NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center has long pioneered rocket propulsion. More recently, it has partnered with a Wisconsin company to manage propellant flows to improve performance. The U. S. Air Force Fire Rescue Research Group found the effort beneficial in fighting fuel and chemical fires. The pressure management technique disperses the water at higher pressure, creasing smaller drops that blanket the fire more effectively than a stream. The technique has been incorporated into hardware mounted on a range of vehicles, including all terrain vehicles used to batter wildfires.
*TheU. S.military financed the development of the Global Positioning Satelite system used by war fighters and the public alike to navigate the globe, city streets, even hiking trails. Adaptations made by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory are using a technique called radio occulation to study the signals from the signals transmitted by GPS satellites. The variations offer information about the Earth’s atmosphere and gravity field.Coloradoresearchers are using the readings to improve weather forecasting techniques and monitor climate change.