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Advances in Space Techology and What's New?

written by: George Garza•edited by: RC Davison•updated: 5/24/2011

The old public view of the gains from NASA and the space program, was that "Tang" a drink used by astronauts, was the only thing that resulted from their endeavor. But as this article will show, NASA has provided many technological advances that have, in fact, impacted the public.

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    NASA Technology and Its Impact on the Economy

    The public frequently comes up with the question: Why do we spend tax dollars on space? Even people in the know, are unable to provide examples of NASA generated technology and how it is used everyday. Here are some examples of new space technology that has impacted the world in a positive way.

    Your Space Dollars 

    For Facts and achievements see Nothing but the facts about NASA

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    Computer Technology

    There have been many technological breakthroughs because of the space program. Remember that on the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo space craft room was limited. Devices had to be small, and light weight, usually they performed only one function. The same was true with the Space Shuttle. Technology devices had to be powerful and accurate but small and lightweight. On the semiconducting area, NASA produced the semiconductor cube. This is a semiconductor package that provides higher processing speed where the circuits were stacked one on top of another.

    Another technology developed by NASA, is a ground processing scheduling system. It uses artificial intelligence to help the Kennedy Space Center prepare for Space Shuttle launches. And, a structural analysis system for spacecraft design has been ported to the automobile industry for hardware designs.

    You can find an article on NASA's Space Technology Spinoffs here.

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    Many third world countries suffer from polluted water, and there aren't water treatment systems that can effectively deal with the problem. But NASA developed a large water treatment system that developing countries can use. This system is the Regenerable Biocide detection unit. Along with that, NASA developed a pool purification system to sterilize water and kill bacteria and algae without using chemicals.

    On a more personal and commercial level, sports has also been impacted. NASA research developed a muscular conditioner to increase muscular strength for athletes and moon boot material has been added to shoe mid-soles for shock absorption. Both of these technologies assist athletes gain strength and improve coordination.

    Learn about NASA Insulation at Properties and Uses of NASA Insulation

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    Environmental and Resource Management

    NASA is involved in the development of green technology. There were solar energy and wind energy power systems that were used for meteorological studies and for alternative energy sources.

    Plant research shows how hydroponics, where plants use liquid nutrient solutions, instead of soil to support plant growth can be an effective alternative.

    The Jimsphere Wind Monitoring Systems was developed for wind measurement. It is a balloon for space launches, which allows scientists to make meteorological measurements of the wind profiles for atmospheric studies and predictions. Another weather technology product, the Barorator, continually measures atmospheric pressure.


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    Health and Medicine

    While you wouldn't think that there would be improvements in medicine because of the space program there were several important developments. In the area of breast cancer, there were new sensors developed to detect breast cancer that were more efficient and used smaller x-ray exposures to reduce radiation hazards.


    Pacemakers were developed that were implanted into patients and communicated using wireless signals; the system used a doctor's computer console for fine tuning the device.

    NASA has also been involved in arthritis therapy, see Arthritis and Light Therapy: Does it Work?

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    Transportation operations have benefited from advances in space technology. Better brakes, studless winter tires, and better lubricants were developed with NASA contracts in order for the Space Shuttle to work effectively. These technologies then found their way into automotive implementations.

    Aircraft engines that were more fuel efficient, and jet wing designs that were lighter and aerodynamically-efficient were first produced on NASA craft and later went to commercial aircraft.

    An energy system called the Flywheel Energy Storage system was the result of a chemical-free energy storage study, which results in the ability to harness the energy of a spinning wheel and store it as electricity.

    Flywheel Energy Storage 

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    What's New

    Technology changes in computers, solid state electronics, engine design and implementation have come a long way from the Mercury-Gemini-Apollo spacecraft systems. Those spacecraft were tiny compared to the Space Shuttle, but it set one thing in place that has not changed...size and weight. Most of the electronics and other hardware continues to be compact. Here are some of the devices that have made their way into space craft.

    Solar cells can now soak up even more solar energy. This is the result of the 7700 Concentrated Photovoltaic or CPV Generator. The technology puts space-grade solar cells under an earth-bound lens. The CPV Generator uses gallium-based technology, which makes them more heat resistant than traditional silicon-based cells and are practically unaffected by high temperatures. This is because CPV solar cells have been used in space for quite some time now.

    700 Concentrated Photovoltaic or CPV Generator Solar Panel 


    NASA developed the Robonaut 2, which is a robot that looks human and will work like one. It has human-like hands and arms, this will allow it to use the same tools that astronaut crew members use. Their primary use, however, may be as stand-ins for astronauts during spacewalks or for tasks too difficult or dangerous for humans. The R2 does not have adequate protection needed to exist outside the space station in the extreme temperatures of space, so its use is limited at this time.

    RoboNaut 2 


    See also: Information and Uses of NASA's Robotic Arm

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    NASA Technology and Its Impact on the Economy

    Image: Kennedy Space Center Technology Transfer Office,

    Environment and Resource Management

    Jimsphere, Image

    Health and Medicine

    Image: Author, John Ira Petty,


    Flywheel, Image:

    What's New

    Solar Panel, Author: Amanda Hinski, Image:

    RoboNaut 2, Image NASA,