5 Space Age Inventions that Became Standard in the Home

Believe it or not, a lot of the technology you use in your home was either invented or revised by NASA to be easier to use and more reliable and effective overall. Here’s a list of the tools you might find around the house that were helped along in their development by the American space program.

1. Smoke Detectors

One of the household’s most important appliances was actually created for Skylab, the United States’ first space station. The tool was developed by a partnership between NASA and Honeywell Corporation in the 1970’s that intended to create a device that could detect smoke and toxic gases. The end product was the first ionization smoke detector, which used a small amount of the radioactive isotope Americium-241. By 1979, inexpensive photoelectric detection devices hit the mainstream consumer market.

2. Nutrient-rich Baby Food

One NASA-sponsored research team set out to study the potential of algae as a food supply for long-term space travel. The Maryland-biosciences company ended up discovering that one algae additive possessed two fatty acids that were almost identical to those found in human breast milk. The finding yielded much-improved infant forumla, the most famous of which is called Formulaid and possesses the nutrients essential to healthy visual and mental development for babies.

ear thermometer

3. Ear Thermometers

Oral thermometers can’t be used in every situation, and people weren’t overly fond of the other alternative. The solution was ultimately found by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the organization to whom the Diatek Corporation of California turned when they wanted to find a safer and more comfortable way to take a person’s temperature. NASA’s JPL specialized in using infrared sensors to remotely observe celestial bodies, so the relatively less complicated task didn’t take them long to complete. Together with Diatek, they created a probe that could be inserted into the ear canal to detect infrared radiation from the eardrum, ultimately yielding a digital readout within two seconds.

4. Protective Paint

The launch structures at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center suffered consistently from salt-air corrosion, rocket exhaust and thermal stress until NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center initiated a research program devoted to developing something that would protect the vulnerable infrastructure. Eventually their efforts yielded protective paint, which not only defends launch structures from strenuous conditions, but also covers the Golden Gate Bridge, the Statue of Liberty, and a giant Buddha structure in Hong Kong.

sun glasses

5. Scratch-Resistant Glasses

NASA research is also responsible for the plastic lenses found in eye glasses that last about 10 times longer than those used before their invention. Ames Research Center developed scratch-resistant coating to protect its equipment from the damage caused by space debris. Eventually the Foster Grant Corporation acquired the license for the extremely hard coat and applied the technology towards their plastic sunglasses. The same coating is commonly used on most eyewear as well as industrial face shields.

There are many more examples of NASA’s space-geared research leading to major improvements back on planet Earth; if you want to know more, try typing “me want know about SPACE” into your favorite search engine.

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