NASA has collaborated with and been the sole inventors of several technologies that are important to and assist with typical procedures that are necessary for space exploration and study.

Medicine

Infrared Thermometer (1991)

Called the Diatek Model 7000, the first infrared thermometer was invented in NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and allowed for temperature readings in less than two seconds, which was about the temperature available for digital oral thermometers of the time. It allowed for temperature measuring for those who would otherwise severely contaminate the thermometer or for whom it would be unsafe to do so, such as the severely disabled or ill or newborns.

Artificial Limb Development (Early 2000s)

NASA developed a set of artificial muscle systems that have the ability to sense contraction and release as well as react to induced chemical signals. They developed two kinds: a flexing system that can react to its environment and a more natural system that resembles mammalian muscles with linear actuation and electrochemical stimulation. These have been available for use with research opportunities and are currently being used in research kits that are hoping to advance the use of artificial muscles and make them available, with enough development, for use as replacements for damaged human muscle.

Scratch-resistant Lenses (1996)

With the need to develop economical and strong coatings for windows and helmet visors for space use, they developed the technology of diamond-like carbon deposition (called DLC) that was able to create a very thin film of carbon that allowed the lens to be extremely scratch-resistant and hydrophobic while still being completely transparent. Nearly all current scratch-resistant lenses have been developed from this technology.

Consumer Technologies

Memory Foam (Early 1970s to mid 2000s)

It was originally developed as a light solution to crash protection for astronauts, but this soft material that holds its shape and flexes easily has expanded into a multitude of different opportunities, such as seating, mattresses, aircraft, amusement park rides, and even prosthetics. It allows for extreme energy absorption that provides protection in the case of an accident but is also soft enough to be very comfortable.

Cordless Vacuums (1981)

Born out of space drill technology, Black & Decker developed in concert with NASA to develop a very efficient motor with low power consumption that could be used as a self-contained drill that would be used on the lunar surface, but an opportunity was seen to then make the solution of a portable cordless vacuum, and soon enough the Dustbuster was created.


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