Since 1976, NASA has been developing, researching, licensing or providing technologies known as spin-offs that have become commercial or everyday products. During the past 40 years, NASA has been responsible for over 2,000 such technologies and also has an annual publication called Spinoff that reports an average of 50 technologies per year. So far, these technologies have found use in the fields of health and medicine, recreation, public safety, transportation, environment and agriculture, computer technology, and industrial productivity. Here is a short list of some of those things that you didn’t know were invented by NASA.

1. Enriched Baby Formula

During the 1980s, NASA partnered with Martin Marietta Corporation to test the use of some strains of microalgae for food supply, oxygen, and waste disposal for long-duration space flight. During the research, the scientists discovered many things about the microalgae and realized that they aren’t just useful for astronauts, but also for people on Earth as a nutritional supplement. The omega-3 fatty acid, which is an important part of the supplement developed, is naturally found in breast milk and are essential for brain and vision development of infants. It is now added to almost 90 percent of infant formulas sold in the United States and 65 other countries. (source)

2. Memory Foam

The origin of memory foam dates back to 1966 when NASA contracted an aeronautical engineer, Charles Yost, to improve the airline seating for crash and vibration protection, as well as to develop energy-absorbing techniques to increase the chances of survival. Then, Yost created an open-cell polymeric “memory” foam which has remarkable viscoelastic properties that let the material absorb high energies and provide soft cushion to the body. It is now not only used in flights and seating but also for helmets, bikes and race cars for shock absorption, bedding for the sick ones, and the prosthesis skin-like feel for amputees. (source)

3. Invisible Braces

 

NASA Advanced Ceramics Research and Ceradyne together developed a type of transparent ceramics called translucent polycrystalline alumina. It has been found to be useful in the electro-optical field and for infrared heat-seeking devices for missile guidance systems and even IR night vision. Another interesting application for this material is invisible tooth braces. These braces are designed for each tooth and are connected by a thin metallic wire. Invisible braces are aesthetically appealing and are also as strong and effective as metal or plastic ones. (1, 2)

4. Space Blanket

 

Space blankets were first developed in 1964 for the US space program by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. It consists of a thin plastic sheet coated with reflecting metallic agent and is called metallized polyethylene terephthalate (MPET). It reflects 97 percent of radiated heat and reduces body’s heat loss due to thermal radiation, water evaporation or convection. These are compact in size before unfurling and are available in many first aid kits and camping equipment. (source)

5. Scratch Resistant Glasses

In the 1980s, two scientists from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, James B. Stephens and Charles G. Miller, were researching the harmful effects of light in space and the light emitted during laser and welding works. They developed technology that absorbs harmful radiation, and also protects the eyes and enhances colors, which found its way to astronaut helmets, welding masks, sunglasses, and ski goggles. The scratch-resistant coating now seen on prescription glasses and sunglasses also came from the coatings used on astronaut helmet visors and plastic membranes used in water purification systems developed at Ames Research Center. (source)

 

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