12 Apollo-Era Technologies Used Today
The coolest technologies that the moon landing gave us — that we still use today.
1. Man on the Moon
It’s been 40 years since Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins launched into space in Apollo 11, with the historic moon landing occurring four days later. The technology involved in getting a man on the moon was amazing, and several of those developments are now commonplace back here on Earth. Here are our favorite technologies inspired by the space program.
2. Wireless Headsets
When Neil Armstrong said those famous words as he stepped onto the moon’s surface, he spoke into a wireless headset using technology created by Pacific Plantronics (now just Plantronics). Since then, Plantronics has continued to develop wireless headset technologies, not just for the space program and aviation, but also for regular office workers with desktop headsets and mobile phone Bluetooth headsets.
3. Memory Foam
Developed in 1966 to help absorb shock and used in NASA’s airplane seats, temper foam has been used in everything from football helmets, hospital beds, and shoe insoles. Even specialized “memory foam” pillows and mattresses use this technology these days.
4. Cordless Tools
Although NASA didn’t invent the Dustbuster, it can trace its origin to a battery-powered lunar drill developed by Black & Decker for the Apollo program. Similar technology can be found in cordless power drills and screwdrivers used every day to fix things around the house.
5. Flame-Resistant Clothing
A fire on the Apollo launch pad (Apollo 1) that killed three astronauts led to the development of fire-resistant textiles for space suits and vehicles. Materials made from Polybenzimidazole (PBI) have since been used by firefighters, soldiers, and race-car drivers to help protect them from fire.
6. Cooling Suits
Space suits were designed for astronauts to survive in extreme temperatures, deflect radiation, and provide life support. Their materials needed to provide essential oxygen, pressure, heating, and cooling while allowing astronauts to remain mobile. Today, cooling suits (including the Cool Vest from ILC Dover) are used in industrial environments to regulate body temperature, as well as in people suffering from hypohidrotic ectodermal dysplasia, a rare disease that prevents the body from cooling itself.
7. Fluid Recycling
Kidney dialysis machines now use a process created for NASA that helps remove toxic waste from used fluids. The process helps save electricity and eliminates the need for a continuous water supply, providing greater freedom for patients.
8. Exercise Equipment
Prolonged exposure to the microgravity environment of space led to research on “cardiovascular deconditioning,” the potential deterioration of an astronaut’s cardiovascular system. This led to the development of the “horizontal trampoline” (the Shuttle 2000-1), which is now being used by sports teams and medical rehabilitation centers. The equipment promotes cardiovascular fitness and muscular strength through closed-chain kinetic and plyometric exercises.
9. Reflective Materials
Materials such as propylene or mylar, which helped protect astronauts from radiation and heat, are now found in regular home insulation. Other “vacuum metalizing” techniques are used in products such as garment insulation, food packaging, wall coverings, and window shades. The next time you watch a marathon and watch runners get wrapped in a shiny blanket, you’ll see NASA technology at work.
10. Freeze-Dried Food
The problem: feeding astronauts during long missions. The solution: freeze-drying, a process that helps preserve the food’s nutritional value and taste, while also reducing weight and increasing shelf life.
11. Tang, Teflon, Velcro?
These three products (and others, like magnetic resonance imaging) were around at the time of the space program, and were not invented, or inspired, by the space program. NASA says Tang, invented by General Foods in 1957, was used by John Glenn in 1962 when performing eating experiments in orbit. Teflon, material invented for DuPont in 1938, was used by NASA for heat shields, space suits and cargo hold liners, the agency says. And Velcro, invented by the Swiss in 1940s, was also used by NASA to anchor equipment for zero-gravity environments.Source: http://www.sti.nasa.gov/tto/spinfaq.htm
12. Scratch-Resistant Lenses
A highly abrasion-resistant coating developed by NASA’s Ames Research Center helped protect plastic surfaces of aerospace equipment from harsh environments. Foster Grant used this technology in the ’70s and ’80s to produce its Space Tech Lens, which provided five times more scratch resistance than regular eyeglass lenses.