Technologies that have been to space

Launch of Atlantis-STS-135In a world dominated by computers, it’s easy to forget about the small things that make the world go round and the technology that makes everything so easy.

NASA is notorious for creating and acquiring technology that is later used and mass marketed by the private sector. The following are just a few of these inventions:

Duct Tape

It might be a joke that duct tape can fix anything, but there’s a reason it has endured for so long. While similar types of tape have been around since the turn of the 20th century, what is now known as duct tape was developed by Johnson & Johnson during World War II. Because it was so versatile, tough and waterproof, it quickly became popular with soldiers. Amazingly, these qualities also helped Apollo 13 return home after an explosion forced the mission to be aborted. The astronauts used the airtight and watertight duct tape to attach the CO2 scrubbers to the filter system, which helped them make it home safely.


Rubber is a technology that people can’t live without. Rubber is in everything from car tires to the insulation on the electrical wiring in homes. The natural insulation of rubber enables computers to work without encountering electrical shorts, and its elasticity means it can be used in tires and gaskets to help cars move from point A to point B.

The aeronautics and space industries also have a major use for rubber. Outside of the electrical devices that use rubber and plastic as insulation, rubber o-rings are an integral part of the fuel system. O-rings provide an extremely strong seal between the fuel mixtures to ensure that none escapes before it is needed. The rubber in o-rings also can withstand a wide variety of temperatures and pressures, making it the perfect material for space travel.

Digital cameras

Photography has advanced significantly over the last 100 years. While many people may take it for granted today, before about 20 years ago, the most portable camera most people owned was a disposable camera from Kodak.

While this was fine for many people, it wasn’t good enough for NASA. Photographic film is vulnerable to radiation, which outer space is full of since it doesn’t have the atmosphere to protect it. Because NASA needed a better way to take photos of the Earth, moon and beyond, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) helped develop camera sensors that were small enough to bring aboard a space mission while still being of scientific quality. This miniaturisation of camera sensors helped the private sector develop the technology that enables people to carry digital and smartphone cameras with them everywhere today.

Water filters

It costs about $10,000 to launch one pound of material into space. One gallon of water weighs eight pounds, so astronauts have to make sure that none of it goes to waste on their long-term missions. The same technology that makes water taste good is the same sort of technology used in the space program.

Because of the limited drinking water supply, it is extremely important that the space program’s testing and detection systems are sensitive enough to sense any problems before they occur. For example, the microbial check valve lets astronauts use iodine as a major purifying agent. Iodine is good at killing pathogens, but in large quantities it can be harmful to the body. This means that they need a machine to remove the excess iodine before it is reintroduced into the system.

Memory Foam

The fancy chairs business owners buy for their employees and the comfortable beds people get a good night’s rest on are all thanks to NASA’s development of memory foam. One of the rigors of space travel on astronauts is due to the rapid acceleration and deceleration that the body undergoes when leaving and entering the atmosphere. It can be especially harmful if their body is being pressed into a rigid surface. Memory foam helps distribute the forces exerted on the body, which makes for a more comfortable trip for astronauts and a better night’s sleep for consumers.

NASA’s development and use of certain pieces of technology have made a big impact on the private sector and consumers. Inventions that were initially intended for a specific scientific purpose have made their way into people’s homes and changed the way the average person uses them.