Do you know which household items NASA invented?

17th July 2019

With a wealth of talented scientists and engineers in a wide array of fields, from astronomy and physics to chemistry, biology and materials science, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has invented all sorts of technology to solve the peculiar problems of space exploration.

Not only benefitting aerospace, their work has led to many new scientific discoveries, patents and spinoff technologies that benefit us every day. Whilst there is an exhaustive list, we’ve selected some of our favourite household items that have been derived from NASA’s work.

Memory foam

You can thank NASA for that comfy night’s sleep. Memory foam was developed in 1966 when NASA had the task of making customisable seats that would alleviate the effects of g-force during take-off and landing. The seats needed to suit the different physiques of the astronauts, so the solution was to devise a material that would mould to the astronaut’s body and return to its original state when not in use – hence the term ‘memory foam’.

Not just limited to mattresses and pillows, memory foam is used in a wide range of consumer products today, from shoes to safety helmets.

Cordless vacuum

The light and convenient cordless vacuum is great for whipping round the house and even your car. This handy device was derived from the Apollo space mission. Enlisting Black & Decker’s help, NASA’s research helped create a portable vacuum drill that could extract core samples from the surface of the moon. This later led to the invention of the cordless vacuum cleaner as well as cordless medical instruments and many other tools we use every day.

Healthier baby formula

While NASA didn’t invent the first-ever baby formula, they contributed to a significant improvement. Back in the 1980s whilst developing meal replacements for astronauts travelling to Mars, researchers stumbled upon a form of omega-3 fatty acids which is found mainly in breast milk. These compounds, which are essential for a baby’s mental and visual health, are now found in over 90% of baby formula on the market.

Compact photography

To capture moments on interplanetary missions, astronauts needed to be able to snap images without having to take heavy equipment. This led to the development of CMOS sensors, which allowed them to capture high-definition images whilst using less power on a small device. This technology can now be seen in smartphone cameras, GoPros, DSLRs and more.

LED am/pm light bulbs

Whilst we all know Thomas Edison invented the lightbulb, it was NASA who invented the LED am/pm lightbulb. It was discovered that different colours—or wavelengths—of light can help people stay alert or become drowsy. NASA therefore created a lightbulb that is designed to improve the mind’s alertness during daytime and dim when it’s time to wind down for the evening.

The super soaker

It's not just useful items that NASA has helped create, they have created fun ones too. In 1982, NASA scientist Lonnie Johnson was considering a pressurised nozzle system for a new type of refrigerator but realised the invention would be better for a high-powered water gun, or as we know it a ‘super soaker’.

Computer mouse

Computers were traditionally thought of as arithmetic machines. With computers being used in more and more aspects of space flights, NASA wanted a way to make them more useful and easily interactive. Money was funnelled into the project and the computer mouse was born – which we still use to this day.

Comfortable running shoes

NASA invented a rubber moulding process for helmets and they realised that it could also be useful for athletic shoes. The process, known as ‘blow rubber moulding’ was applied to create hollow soles, which were then filled with shock-absorbing materials. Former NASA engineer, Frank Rudy pitched the idea to the Nike Corporation and the Nike Air trainer was born.

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