NASA Paves the way for a Greener Future

Green energy has been on everyone’s minds lately. With climate shift occurring at an alarming rate, America will begin shifting it’s investments towards cleaner, more renewable energy.  Over the years, NASA has  paved the way for alternative energy, creating tens-of-thousands of high-paying jobs along the way.

From being able to predict pot holes to designing a chip that will allow plants never to go without water, NASA has helped a great portion of this country achieve an easier life. Even outside the country, NASA has outfitted our military with stronger body armor, and have even created water-purifying bottles for those without a clean water supply.

Due to NASA’s need for renewable energy on space missions, they’ve been a pioneer in green energy creations. Some of their most important contributions to the world are:

Solar Energy – NASA has pioneered photovoltaic power systems for spacecraft applications. Solar energy technology has been developed for space programs to expand terrestrial applications where no other long term energy sources exist.

 

 

 

Forest Management – A satellite scanning system has been developed that monitors and maps forestation. It detects radiation reflected and emitted from trees.

 

 

 

Oil Spill Control – The concept was invented by Petrol Rem, Inc. of Pittsburgh, Penn. Also, Marshall Space Flight Center and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory helped to design the tiny beeswax balls (microcapsules). These microcapsules made of beeswax are designed so that water can’t get in, but oil can. The microorganisms inside release enzymes that digest the oil when the oil seeps through the shell. Once the balls are full of digested oil, they explode. The microcapsules release enzymes, carbon dioxide and water, all environmentally safe. The residue is even eatable fish food!

 

Fishing from Orbit – A series of satellites were launched in 1972 by NASA to observe the changing conditions of the earth’s surface. The ability to monitor changes to the earth for a long period of time provides invaluable information such as: preserving wildlife, monitoring air and water pollution, mapping the growth of cities, flood control and more.

 

 

 

Feeding Our World-And Prepping to Feed Other Worlds – Disney and NASA are working together in a unique partnership. They are striving to find ways to use human and industrial waste to provide the ingredients needed for growing edible plants. This technology will be needed for establishing human colonies on other worlds.

 

 

 

Other spin-offs include: Environmental Control Sensors, energy saving air conditioning, air purification, sewage treatment, pollution control and measuring devices, a whale identification method, and a earthquake prediction system. You can find more information about NASA Spinoffs at http://spinoff.nasa.gov

 

 

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Why Should We Spend Money on the NASA Space Program?

NASA budget grapghThe point to spending on the space program, for example, is shown by the timeline of spinoff technologies [1]. I’m preparing the fiscal numbers using the information posted on this blog to look into asking, “What is the financial effect of science and technology funding?”, so the Apollo program is a perfect example for looking into this question. As discussed in the timeline, Apollo led to “cool suits alleviate dangers from high-heat environments and medical conditions, Kidney dialysis machines remove toxic waste from used dialysis fluid, A machine aids physical therapy and athletic development, A stress-free ‘blow molding’ process manufactures athletic shoes, Communities benefit from water purification technology, Manufacturers preserve food through freeze-drying, and Sensors detect hazardous gasses.”

In today’s money, the $20.4 billion spent on the Apollo program is equivalent to $109 billion [2]. If we look at the markets that exist now because of these technologies (attempt to estimate the revenue gained if the technology did not now exist), then the dialysis market brings in $16 billion A YEAR (+, more than that due to secondary effects from increased quality of life) [3], the sports coaching market (which would benefit from a “machine aids athletic development”) brings in $6 billion a year (-, less because an athletic development machine would only lead to changes in part of the market) [4], the physical therapy market brings in $30 billion a year (-, less is attributable to the technology) [5], the athletic shoe market brings in $75 billion a year (-, less) [6], the water purification market brings in $20 billion a year (+, more from secondary effects) [7], and the hazardous gas detection market is $2 billion a year (+, more) [8]. Note that I have not been able to assemble fiscal numbers on all of the technologies listed above because of time constraints to do all the research. Also, the spinoff timeline did not mention that the Apollo program led to the development of the expendable launch vehicle market which is $53 billion over the next 10 years [9].

So finally, we can get our hands on a comparison. $20.4 billion spent in 1970 on the space program translates to somewhere around $154.3 billion dollars _A YEAR_ in technology-based markets. What this roughly indicates is that the cuts in NASA funding is the farming equivalent to eating your seed corn.

[References]

[1] http://spinoff.nasa.gov/Spinoff2008/pdf/timeline_08.pdf

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollo_program

[3] http://www.firstresearch.com/Industry-Research/Kidney-Dialysis-Centers.html

[4] http://www.ibisworld.com/industry/default.aspx?indid=1542

[5] http://www.ibisworld.com/industry/default.aspx?indid=1562

[6] http://www.prweb.com/releases/2013/6/prweb10808367.htm

[7] http://www.hkc22.com/waterpurification.html

[8] http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/global-gas-sensors-detectors-and-analyzers-markets-190181871.html

[9] http://www.militaryaerospace.com/articles/2011/10/expendable-launch.html

How NASA tech makes an impact in your daily life

NASA suffers from an interesting problem: NASA gets credit for things it didn’t do and doesn’t get credit for things it did do. The public knows that the investment in space and space technologies brings about innovations that improve our daily lives. An understanding of what those technologies are, however, is something that is often elusive. NASA is often mistakenly credited with inventing commonplace consumer products to which it had either tangential connections or no connections—certainly not an enabling connection. Meanwhile, the real stories of NASA’s technological achievements are often unknown.

 

This is an issue that has nagged at NASA since the Apollo program. Prior to the success of the Apollo program, for many, travel to other celestial bodies and the associated space technologies were dreams of the future, but with the successful Moon landings, there came the realization that these cutting-edge technologies were things of the present. This generated a keen interest in the public and an expectation that, since we were now living in a “space age,” that these technologies developed for space should reach homes and factories across the country.

 

This era, the middle portion of the 20th century, was also a period when many new technologies were already reaching the public, spurred by advances in manufacturing and electronics. And while this influx of new consumer electronics and gadgets happened during a time when people were discovering the possibilities of space flight, many of the new goods were not directly related to any space or NASA mission. As a result, to this day, people (sometimes employees of NASA included) often mistake common household goods like microwave ovens, quartz wristwatches, smoke detectors, and barcodes for NASA technologies.  While the Apollo program did bring about many significant spinoff technologies—like some of the first practical uses of the integrated circuit, the predecessor of the modern microchip—the difference between recorded spinoff technologies and public perception is pronounced.

 

The belief that NASA technologies have direct benefit to our everyday lives, though, is not misplaced.

 

The benefits of NASA technology are all around us. Among those that have had the greatest impact are:

  • A cardiac pump that functions as a “bridge to transplant” for patients and which has saved hundreds of lives.
  • The cameras in many cell phones.

  • Memory foam, a material found in everything from mattresses to sports helmets.

  • Aerodynamics advances that have been widely implemented in truck designs—today nearly all trucks on the road incorporate NASA technology.

  

 

  • Liquidmetal alloys that are used in everything from sports equipment to computers and mobile devices.

 

These and many other products have all benefitted from the Nation’s investments in aerospace technology. The list goes on.

 

A recent analysis of companies who have recently commercialized NASA technology shows impressive results: billions of dollars in generated revenue, billions in cost savings, tens of thousands of jobs created and tens of thousands of lives saved.

 

NASA is committed to moving technologies and innovations into the mainstream of the U.S. economy, and we actively seek partnerships with U.S. companies that can license NASA innovations and create spinoffs in areas such as health and medicine, consumer goods, transportation, renewable energy and manufacturing.

 

NASA is also committed to telling this story and making sure both that the public is aware of the benefits of its investment in space technology, but also that American industry is aware of the availability of NASA technology research and assistance through its Technology Transfer Program.

 

Just this month, NASA released its newest edition of Spinoff. A long-standing NASA tradition, this annual report highlights some of the many advances that have come out of NASA’s Technology Transfer Program. Spinoffs in this year’s book alone include:

International Space Station

  • An invisible coating, developed by a NASA Dual-Use Technology partner and tested at NASA facilities, that is capable of breaking down pollutants, eliminating odors, and inhibiting the buildup of grime. The technology’s many applications include enhancing the efficiency of solar cells, sanitizing air in the homes of those suffering from cystic fibrosis, and even transforming buildings and towering modern art sculptures into massive air purifiers.

 

QC Bot traveling down a hospital hallway

  • A robot assistant now found in the halls of hospitals around the country, helping with everything from registering patients to logging vital signs. The robot has been dubbed “a Mars rover in a hospital” by one of its developers, who employed the expertise he gained working on Mars robotics for NASA to create the technology. The robot is not only easing the workload of hospital staff but also providing an economic return, creating 20 new jobs for its manufacturer.

 

 

 

Two Cricket Trailers at the beach and Interior

  • A recreational trailer designed using the same principles that supplied comfortable living quarters for the crew of the International Space Station. The trailer’s creator used his experience as a NASA architect to create a unique, eco-friendly means for reconnecting with nature and revitalizing interest in our Nation’s parks.

 

 

 

Deep Space 1 spacecraft

  • A solar concentration technology that, for the same amount of silicon, can provide many times the power of conventional panels benefited from innovations developed through a NASA Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) partnership. The company founded to commercialize these NASA-derived sustainable energy installations now employs 30 workers, all with a mission to move renewable solar power into true mainstream use.

 

406 MHz personal locator beacon

  • A worldwide search and rescue system that was founded through NASA innovation. Enabled in part by satellite ground stations developed and constructed by a NASA partner, the true value of this spinoff is inestimable. To date, more than 30,000 lives have been saved, on average more than 6 a day, from the highly publicized 2010 rescue of teen sailor Abby Sunderland to the rescue of fishermen, hikers, and adventurers around the world.

 

 

 

 

The Spinoff report is available online at http://spinoff.nasa.gov, where you will also find a searchable database of the over 1,800 spinoffs NASA has recorded since it began the Spinoff report in 1976.