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For those of us that grew up during the time of the race for space, Russian Sputniks, etc. this has a bittersweet ending to it! I have always supported space exploration as a way of learning about our planet, solar system, and the universe. It is hard to say at this juncture what space exploration will mean to the future of humanity. Will we colonize new planets and solar systems (just like moving to the suburbs)? Will we develop new travel methods (light speed, suspended animation, worm-hole, time-travel)? It all seems far-fetched at this point the type of things that you read about in science fiction. But if history repeats itself it seems that the things that man dreams up in fiction eventually become reality. Well, OK, maybe not everything but a lot of things!
There is more to space exploration than just going new places! The program get’s criticized for expenditures (it’s not cheap!) but some probably don’t realize the scientific contributions that are made in space. Besides the obvious things like examining the universe there are many scientific experiments that are conducted. Just like many technological and medical advances made in the battlefields (with great human cost) experiemnts in space are leading to medical and technological discoveries (and without the great loss of life).
NASA Spinoffs Milestones in Space Research
Inspired by the space suits Apollo astronauts wore to survive the moon’s harsh climate, the Recharge™ Active Cooling System by Cool Systems Inc. helps patients with multiple sclerosis and heat-related neurological disorders manage their symptoms by lowering their core body temperature.
Photo courtesy of NASA
DIGITAL IMAGING BREAST BIOPSY SYSTEM— A non-surgical system developed with Space Telescope Technology that greatly reduces the time, cost, pain, and other effects associated with traditional surgical biopsies.
BREAST CANCER DETECTION—A solar cell sensor that determines exactly when x-ray film has been exposed to optimum density; it reduces exposure to radiation and doubles the number of patient exams per machine.
LASER ANGIOPLASTY—A “cool” type of laser, called an excimer laser, which offers precise non-surgical cleanings of clogged arteries and fewer complications than in balloon angioplasty.
ULTRASOUND SKIN DAMAGE ASESMENT—An advanced ultrasound instrument to immediately assess depth of damage, improving patient treatment and saving lives in serious burn cases.
HUMAN TISSUE STIMULATOR—A device employing NASA satellite technology that is implanted in the body to help control chronic pain and involuntary motion disorders through electrical stimulation of targeted nerve centers or particular areas of the brain.
COOL SUIT—Custom-made suit that circulates coolant to lower body temperature; it dramatically improves symptoms of multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, and other conditions.
PROGRAMMABLE PACEMAKER—An implant connected to a physician’s computer and used to regulate heart rate, incorporating multiple NASA technologies.
OCULAR SCRENING—An image-processing technique developed by NASA and now used to detect eye problems in very young children.
To Find Out More
VOICE-CONTROLLED WHEELCHAIR—Robotic wheelchair manipulator that responds to 35 one-word voice commands, helping patients to perform daily tasks like picking up packages, opening doors, and turning on appliances.
WATER PURIFICATION SYSTEM—A municipal water treatment system for developing nations that uses iodine instead of chlorine to kill harmful bacteria.