Spinoffs! How NASA Affects Our Daily Lives

podcast Mar 08, 2018

China's Space Station is hurdling towards Earth, Captain Kirk wants to send you to the Sun, and you use technology originally made by NASA far more often than you think!


THERE MAY BE A PLANET MADE OUT OF DIAMONDS. As space facts go, this is pretty impressive. Research by Yale University scientists suggests that a rocky planet called 55 Cancri e — which has a radius twice Earth’s, and a mass eight times greater – may have a surface made up of graphite and diamond. It’s 40 light years away but visible to the naked eye in the constellation of Cancer.

Contest Reminder
Shout out to Gwydion
16 year old from North Whales hoping to study Astrophysics at University and go on to cool Space Stuff after that


NASA will fly you to the sun — or at least your name.
Now until April 27, NASA is accepting online submissions to be sent on the Parker Solar Probe all the way to the sun.
Learn more and add your name to the mission here: http://go.nasa.gov/HotTicket

China’s Space Station is crashing to Earth
If you haven’t heard, Tiangong-1 launched in 2011 as China's first space laboratory, a first step to a permanent space station. For about five years, it orbited Earth and acted as a base for three missions for the Chinese National Space Administration. In September 2016, however, Chinese officials announced that they had lost control of the station, meaning it would eventually come hurtling back to Earth. Exactly when or where it would do so was a mystery. We’ve now learned that the 9.5 ton Heavenly Palace is expected to sometime in the next few weeks in Spain, Portugal, France, and maybe even Greece.


Todays Topic: Spinoffs

Inside 2018 Spinoffs

Since 2976, Spinoff has anually profiled an average of 50 commercial technologies with origins in NASA missions and research. You can download these issues at spinoff.nasa.gov

Weightless “Weight” Lifting Builds Muscle on Earth
In zero gravity, the human body quickly loses significant muscle and bone mass, making a rigorous workout schedule crucial to long-term health. OYO Fitness founder Paul Francis worked with NASA to develop a resistive exercise device for the astronauts to use in space. The innovation led to several lines of Earth-bound exercise devices, most recently OYO Fitness’ DoubleFlex Silver portable gym. Francis describes the DoubleFlex as the world’s only exercise device that applies resistance to both sides of muscle groups in one motion, enabling balanced bodybuilding in half the time. “Combining strength with movement, without weight or momentum, our portable gym is the new way to get fit anywhere, anytime,” he says.

Space-Grade Insulation Keeps Beer Colder on Earth
KegSheet beer keg insulators made with multilayer reflective thin-film insulation pioneered by NASA, are not just effective but also lightweight and low-mass, folding up small enough to fit in a back pocket. KegSheets began showing up at retailers, mostly around Philadelphia, in late summer of 2016, going for anywhere from $8 to $15.

Most Famous Spinoffs

Digital Image Sensors

Whether you are using a DSLR camera, your cell phone, or a GoPro, you’re using NASA technology. The CMOS active pixel sensor in most digital cameras was invented when NASA needed to miniaturize cameras for missions to other planets.

Related Myth: Didn’t NASA also invent the MRI?? CAT SCAN???
No, actually NASA did not invent it, but this active pixel sensor that was originally made to enhance images from the Moon and that was implemented in these cameras, was also used to improve images of the organs in the human body for diagnostic purposes. Two techniques that were improved by this spinoff were the CAT Scan and the MRI
Enriched Baby Formula

While developing life support systems for Mars missions, NASA-funded researchers discovered a natural source for an omega-3 fatty acid that is now incorporated into more than 90 percent of baby formulas on the market.


Upturned tips of wings known as “winglets.” Winglets are used by nearly all modern aircraft and have saved many billions of dollars in fuel costs.

Before NASA, GPS data could be inaccurate by as much as 15 meters (50 feet)due to uncertainty of GPS satellites’ positions, drift in satellite clocks and interference from Earth’s atmosphere. In the 1990s, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) developed software to correct these uncertainties. This technology now supports all the world’s major precision-GPS providers with corrective data, enabling accuracy up to within five centimeters.

Memory Foam

Created to keep test pilots cushioned during flights. Today, we use it for beds, couches, chairs, shoes, movie theater seats , and football helmets.
Advanced Water Filtration

Even though we’ve recently discovered water on the Moon and on Mars, these planets are still considered deserts. Every drop must be recycled and reused. A nanofiber filter created to purify water in orbit aboard the ISS is currently at work on Earth in devices that supply water to remote villages as well as in a water bottle that lets hikers and adventurers gather water from streams and lakes and filter it right there in there bottle.

Invisible Braces

A company working with NASA invented the translucent ceramic that became “invisible” braces, which went on to become one of the best-selling orthodontic products of all time.

Cochlear Implants

Adam Kissiah, an engineer at Kennedy Space Center who was hearing impaired used his NASA experience from work in the Space Shuttle Program to develop a hearing aid that worked by electric impulses rather than sound amplification.

Dustbuster/ Cordless Tools

One of the most successful commercial spinoffs of space
When astronauts in the Apollo program needed to bring tools far away from the lander, NASA made them cordless tools. All of the screwdrivers you see when you walk into Home Depot exist because of this. The most popular spinoff being the Dustbuster cordless vacuum.


In November 1983, NASA flew a nine-day space shuttle mission that marked the space debut of SPOC, the Shuttle Portable Onboard Computer… or, the first laptop. Since then, computer companies have all used this technology.

Freeze Drying

When NASA was creating food for astronauts to eat in space, they worked with Nestle to come up with Freeze Drying – a process that involves dehydration of food to make it more convenient for transport, but is now used commercially with fruit and even insects..

Scratch-resistant Lenses

To withstand to harsh environments of space, NASA developed a diamond-like carbon coating for the Astronauts visors. This was eventually spunoff to the sunglasses industry and most higher quality sungalasses are coated with this.


This computer gaming device was first used on the Apollo Lunar Rover.
However, gaming wasn’t it’s first spinoff application. In 1972, a paraplegic named Tom Wertz noticed Apollo astronauts driving the Lunar Rover with the joystick of their time, known as the T-bar. After testing himself, he realized that if this could be adapted to cars, it would help the handicapped population immensely. After nearly 10 years in development NASA and the Department of Veterans Affairs developed a joystick called Unistik, that was installed to control a Ford van.

NOT NASA -Mistakenly Attributed Items

The following is a list of technologies sometimes mistakenly attributed directly to NASA. In many cases, NASA popularized technology or aided its development, which ultimately resulted in the technology's creation.

Tang juice powder - Tang was developed by General Foods in 1957, and it has been for sale since 1959. It was used in the multiple space missions, which gave brand awareness to it.

Barcodes - The barcode was invented in 1948. However, NASA developed a type of barcode that could endure in space environments.

Space Pen - An urban legend states that NASA spent a large amount of money to develop a pen that would write in space (the result purportedly being the Fisher Space Pen), while the Soviets used pencils. While NASA did spend funds to create a pen to work in space, the project was cancelled due to public opposition, and U.S. astronauts used pencils until the Fisher space pen was invented by a third party.

Velcro - Velcro is a Swiss invention from the 1940s. Velcro was used during the Apollo missions to anchor equipment for astronauts; it is used for convenience in zero gravity situations.


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