NASA Spin-Off Technologies

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, otherwise known as NASA, is responsible for the American nation's space program as well as for undertaking research in the fields of aeronautics and aerospace. Many of NASA's technological advancements have led to inventions that we now use on a daily basis. In this video, takes a look at some consumer products that originated as NASA discoveries.

You must login to access this feature


Invisible or Clear Braces

Translucent polycrystalline alumina, or TPA, was originally created by NASA and Ceradyne to shield the antennae of missile trackers. However, the Unitek Company discovered that this material’s strength and translucence were ideal for creating invisible braces. This resulted in one of the most successful orthodontic products today.

Scratch-Resistant Glasses and Sunglasses

NASA developed a protective coating especially for helmet visors that protected astronauts from damages and scratches during space exploration. Sunglasses company Foster-Grant soon became aware of this and began using the coating on their plastic lenses. Other companies followed suit by coating the lenses of regular glasses, and it has since become popular addition to many surfaces, including safety glasses, watch faces and computer screens.

Enriched Baby Food

In the 1980s, NASA tested microalgae as a source of oxygen and for its recycling potential. Martek Biosciences Corporation soon discovered that these organisms contained rare fatty acids essential for human growth. Known as DHA and ARA, these acids were soon developed into nutritional supplements and added to baby food and infant formulas. Studies have shown these supplements help the growth of developing babies, and appear to be especially beneficial for those born premature.

Infrared Ear Thermometer

In the early 1990s, the Diatek Corporation used NASA’s technology for measuring the temperature of the stars to create infrared aural thermometers. Using a sensor, these thermometers measured the energy given off in the ear canal, and made temperature-taking that much faster.

Memory Foam

NASA’s Ames Research Center developed memory foam in 1966. Also known as temper foam, this plastic was initially invented to ameliorate the safety of aircraft cushions. Due to its special structure, memory foam can match the weight or pressure put against it and spring back to its original form. Mattresses made out of the temperature-sensitive material have been shown to help people sleep and to prevent bedsores for bed-ridden patients. This shock-absorbent foam has also been used to make helmets, motorcycle seats and prosthetic limbs.

Cordless Tools

NASA worked with the Black & Decker Corporation for the Apollo missions in the 1960s to create a drill that could extract rock and soil samples from deep under the moon’s surface. A special computer program optimized the features of the lunar drill, which was battery-powered and ran on a magnet motor. This development permitted Black & Decker to build later technological advances, including cordless tools and appliances like power drills, shrub trimmers and vacuum cleaners.

Highway Safety Grooving

In the 1960s, NASA’s Research Center found that by carving grooves into the concrete of their runways, they could make the wet and slippery surfaces less dangerous for aircraft. Safety grooving was then applied to highways and roads to reduce skidding and extra water, and can also be found amongst swimming pools, animal pens and parking lots.

Adjustable Smoke Detectors

Working with the Honeywell Corporation, NASA invented an adjustable smoke detector for the first American space station, Skylab. Because it had different levels of sensitivity, the smoke detector was able to decrease the occurrence of false alarms. The model was later used to make consumer smoke detectors, and helped save thousands of lives.

You must register to a corporate account to download. Please login

Related Videos

+ see more