I meant to do this before the Superbowl last Sunday as part of my listing of benefits from NASA.
Down, set, hike! NASA will be at the Super Bowl. You will not see the players in space suits. NASA made the material used in the helmet padding. Helmets are one of the most important pieces of safety equipment.
...The outside of a football helmet is made from plastic used in astronaut helmets.
Up until a couple of decades ago the only type of lenses available for eyeglasses were made of glass. These lenses were heavy, anything beyond a minor correction could be very uncomfortable. They were also unsafe, an impact could make them shatter, possibly damaging the eye. My father was an optician and he's told me stories about having seen severe damage to children's eyes due to broken glass lenses.
Then plastic lenses came out. They were lighter but they were't scratch resistant like the glass ones were. Just cleaning them without getting the lenses wet first would leave tiny scratches on them reducing clarity of vision. They were much safer than the glass lenses since the plastic didn't shatter as easily but many parents were reluctant to get them since it often meant replacing lenses several times when they became scratched and blurry.
NASA’s Dr. Ted Wydeven of the Ames Research Center generated the technological seeds for the first scratch-resistant plastic lenses while working on a spacecraft water purification system. To alter a membrane in the purification process, Dr. Wydeven coated a filter with a thin plastic film using an electric discharge of an organic vapor. The research continued as NASA developed an abrasion-resistant coating for the astronaut space helmet visors and other plastic surfaces of aerospace equipment.
Foster-Grant invested over 10 years of research trying to find a coating for lenses that could give glass-like scratch-resistance while keeping all the benefits of plastic. In 1983, Foster-Grant obtained a license from NASA for the scratch-resistant coating technology. The company combined its own technology with NASA’s and produced a superior lens. Their scratch-resistant lenses lasted, with normal wear, ten times longer than the most widely used plastic optical lenses, surpassing even glass. Today, the majority of sunglasses, corrective, and safety lenses sold in the United States are made of plastic.
Other NASA research on image processing and space optics led to a method and device for detecting human eye defects. Children who are too young to read an eye chart or even ones too young to talk can be screened for nearsightedness, farsightedness, cataracts, differences in the eyes that can indicate amblyopia, and other vision problems.
I got an aural (ear) thermometer when my kids were little. Taking a baby's or toddler's temperature in their ear was much easier than the alternative. I still use it almost weekly when one child or another wakes up complaing that he/she is too sick to go to school. "No fever, not throwing up, you're going to school."
Mercury thermometers need to be held in place for about three to five minutes. Electronic thermometers need about a minute and an half. Infrared sensor thermometers give a temperature read out in two seconds. Easier, faster, and you don't have to wait to take your temperature if you've just had something hot or cold to eat or drink.
Aural thermometers use infrared sensors to detect heat. This technology was developed to detect the birth of stars and has been used to measure the temperature of distant stars and planets for the Space Shuttle program. Diatek, a producer of medical instruments, approached the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for help in using the infrared technology in a commercial ear themometer.
I like my thermometer. I think my kids would prefer one that was easier to fool.
"Studies have shown that for every dollar spent on space development, $7 have been returned to the economy in the form of a new product or service." - Jim Lovell, Commander of the Apollo 13 lunar mission
Ninety percent of single family homes across the United States have at least one smoke detector installed according to the National Fire Protection Association.*
Having a smoke detector cuts your chance of dying nearly in half if you have a home fire. I don't know of any estimate on the number of lives saved by smoke detectors. It's not just the people who heard the alarm and got out of the building on time who were saved, when everyone is out and accounted for, firemen do not have to take the risk of entering a burning building on a rescue mission. Even if there were such an estimate of lives saved, could you place a price tag on them?
Maybe I should mention who we have to thank for smoke detectors. They were first used on spacecraft designed and built by NASA.
Tell me again why a space program would be too expensive.
*They are only good if they're working. Go check yours now while you're thinking about it.