Volume 86 Issue 46 | Web Exclusive
Issue Date: November 17, 2008

Straight From Space

Department: Government & Policy

Since its inception in 1958, NASA has been developing new technology to help it accomplish its mission of pioneering space exploration, scientific discovery, and aeronautics research. The agency and its partnering companies have taken these technologies and developed spin-off products that benefit society.

For example, a chemical process to remove toxic waste from fluid developed during the Apollo program led to special kidney dialysis machines. A gas-leak detection system to monitor the space shuttle's hydrogen propulsion system is now used by Ford Motor Co. in its production of a natural-gas-powered car. And development of the International Space Station—which will be a space-based laboratory when completed—has yielded a material that led to the development of a high-damping shape-memory alloy used in golf clubs.

Although NASA has hundreds of examples of its technology being adapted and used in consumer products, two items that it cannot take credit for are Tang and Velcro. According to the space agency, General Foods developed Tang in 1957, and the orange-flavored powdered drink has been on the market since 1959. NASA did catapult it to fame when it selected the product to be part of astronaut John Glenn's eating experiments during the Apollo program.

The Apollo program also used Velcro to anchor equipment in zero-gravity conditions, NASA explains on its website. The product, however, was a Swiss invention from the 1940s.

 

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