The Apollo missions were not only impressive for the fact that, you know, we succeeded in putting a man on the Moon, but also because the push to reach it kick-started a prolific era of innovation. It hasnt yet come to a halt as we continue to reap the benefits of the groundbreaking technology and advanced materials necessary for mans most audacious endeavors.
To put things into perspective, weve rounded up 11 every-day items that were originally developed by NASA and its allies to help us explore the great beyond. Chances are, youve used one or more of these in the last week. Let the games begin.
1. Freeze dried food
That novelty astronaut ice cream you just had to buy on a field trip to the science museum? Yeah, that was actually a pretty big deal. Since it was crucial to keep a missions weight down, NASA devised a way to keep the astronauts stocked with food via freeze-dried meals, which retain 98% of their original nutritional value and only 20% of their original weight. Think about that next time you pour a bowl of Lucky Charms
The fact that there are computers small enough to fit in our pockets is a testament to the circuitry developed for the Apollo missions complex onboard navigation systems. The microchip as we know it today evolved out of the first working integrated circuit, which Texas Instruments developed specifically for the Department of Defense and NASA. Now you know who to blame for your crippling Candy Crush addiction.
3. Nice Teeth
To prompt solar panels on satellites to deploy outward once in orbit, NASA built them using a durable metal alloy known as Nitinol, which is defined by its ability to spring back to shapeafter bendingonce warmed up. These days, orthodontists regularly use braces with nitinol wire to ensure they hold their shape in the intense warmth of patients mouths.
4. Better Sunglasses
Ever wonder how it is that your five year-old Ray-Bans havent been scratched to all hell, considering what youve put them through? Thank big brother NASA, who in their never-ending quest for defense against the ravages of our atmosphere and beyond, developed a technique called direct ion deposition that creates a thin, ultra-protective layer of diamond-like carbon. So that the ground-bound can also take advantage of the science, the masterful technique has now been licensed out to sunglasses companies.
5. Cordless Tools
Your freedom to hang shelving and, frankly, anything you damn well please in the middle of nowhere is due in no small part to the advancements made by Black & Decker in the early 60s at the behest of NASA. They needed tools that astronauts could easily use to obtain samples of Moon rock and soil, so the B&D team came up with a then-revolutionary set of battery-powered drills and vacuums.
6. Baby Food
While researching algae in hopes that they could locate one that would generate oxygen in space through photosynthesis, NASA discovered that a particular kind contains essential fatty acids found in breast milk. To this day, a synthetic version of the algae is used as a supplement in baby food all over the world.
7. Memory Foam
Your outrageously comfortable viscoelastic polyurethane foam slumber pod exists solely because NASA needed a way to keep astronauts from bouncing around like crash test dummies while strapped into the return capsules and shuttles.
8. Fighting Forest Fires
Thanks to some of NASAs advanced, infrared-aided fire-detection technology, authorities are now able to spot outbreaks of forest fires well before they get big enough to be seen from the ground. It also helps firefighters pinpoint their exact locations, thus cutting down on precious time wasted trying to locate em.
9. Jaws of Life
God willing, youll never need to experience them first-hand, but the powerful, heat-treated steel and aluminum alloy shears used to pry people from wrecked vehicles and other emergency situations exist, thanks to a system of pyrotechnically-actuated cartridges, which were originally developedon a smaller scaleto separate shuttles from their booster rockets.
10. Protecting Art
Anyone concerned with preserving historys masterpieces owes NASA for developing a particular set of strong and heat-resistant polymers, which have been tested by renowned crews of art experts for their ability to protect piecesspecifically statuesfrom corrosion.
11. Kind of Everything
After LEXAN, a polycarbonate developed by GE, was used to create the lunar astronauts visors, it kind of…took off. In the 70s, it was used for Jeep removable roofs; in the 80s, it made its way into automotive instrument panels, compact discs, and pathways in the Houston Zoo; in the 90s, it made DVDs and relatively tiny Motorola phones possible; and in the 2000s, LEXAN SLX was developed as a next-level, scratch-resistant coating for automotive panels. The stuff even coated the most innovative vehicle since the Space Shuttle: the Segway.