A lot of folks have been talking about cutting NASA's funding as of late. The more I read about it, the more I realize that the reason isn't because NASA hasn't actually produced anything of value since the moon landings, it's because people are generally led to believe that NASA just sends people to space and does all those complicated, uninteresting science-y things that don't really matter (except they do). The reality is that you, someone you know, industries you buy from, etc. have been fundamentally changed by NASA research. NASA isn't just a space agency; it's a research organization that happens to specialize in space, but what it does on a daily basis has ultimately made our lives better in some way or another. With that in mind I decided to make a short list of crucial advancements in technology or other areas that have spawned due to NASA's consistent dedication to science:
- Cordless tools
You know, power tools run by batteries. Drills of all kinds and other nifty battery-powered gizmos that come in handy in the real world. You may never use them personally, but the person who built your house probably did, or your mechanic does. Heck, it really doesn't matter if you or someone you know has ever used one, because without cordless tools, well, things would sort of suck. Imagine having to drill screws into giant logs on your own. That would suck.
- Medical Technology
I've seen the benefits of this first hand. CAT scanners were developed following an industrial version that used to find abnormalities in rockets and the like. Now we use it on people instead of big metal things. Oh, and that's not all. Dialysis machines exist thanks to NASA as well as cardiovascular conditioners, MRIs, invisible braces, safer breast imaging (for cancer and such), ear thermometers (which I particularly like over the alternative), and a vast array of surgical and other medical improvements that would probably cause my blog to explode if I listed them all. The put it simply: if you've gone to the doctor at some point since 1970, you've likely seen the benefits of NASA first hand.
- Athletic Shoes/Shoe Soles
That part inside of your new pair of shoes that's designed to make walking better for you than walking on rocks? You can thank NASA for that. Specifically, you can thank the Apollo missions, since their lovely space suits contributed to the development of better shoes. Go figure.
- Water Purification Technology
Brita filters, filtered water of any kind, etc. All because of NASA. Okay, so somebody might have figured it out anyway, but NASA helped in the process. And now we have an entire industry that basically owes NASA a big thank you check. You hear that Aquafina and Dasani? Send some money to NASA!
- Satellite Television
This is an easy one, right? After all, without NASA we wouldn't have satellites or ways of getting such things into space. But NASA does more than simply provide the technology to get these things up there. NASA has helped develop ways to improve reception and make satellite television better. So, when you're watching Dish Network or DirectTV or whatever satellite company you have, remember that NASA helped make that possible.
- Fire Fighting Equipment
The material used to make fire resistant suits for fire fighters was developed for space suits. Granted, if any of the Apollo vehicles exploded it wouldn't have matter much, but I suppose they had their reasons.
- Sun Glasses
Astronauts do a lot of crap up in space, including welding and dealing with that bright yellow ball of gas floating up there. It's only logical that they would create a way to keep all those harmful bright lights out of their eyes, right? And now we have them here on Earth too!
NASA had its hand in this industry. Since things need to be light and durable in space, NASA needed to develop new materials that could be used for a variety of things. In the process, similar processes and materials have been used down here on Earth for things like food packaging. So, next time you drink a bottle of Coke or Pepsi, remember that NASA helped make that happen.
- Scratch-resistant Lenses
You might say to me, "Well, maybe you should take better care of your glasses, Mister," and I would have to agree. But for those of us that don't take such great care of our ocular devices, scratch-resistant lenses are a godsend. Granted, I don't wear my glasses much, and they do have some small scratches from when I dropped them and kicked them across the floor and then left them there because I didn't know I'd dropped them and kicked them across the floor, but still...they're mostly still in good shape.
- More Efficient Cars/Hybrids/Electric
NASA didn't invent these cars, but NASA funding and researchers/engineers have helped develop cars that run on lithium batteries, cars that get better gas mileage and release few emissions, etc. In fact, NASA has aided all sorts of transportation industries from cars to boats to airplanes. Pretty impressive for some silly organization that puts monkeys in space, huh?