UpFront

NASA-Developed Technique Leads to Cataract Early Detection System

A compact fiber-optic probe developed for the space program has become the first non-invasive early detection device for cataracts. Researchers from NASA and the National Eye Institute (NEI), part of the National Institutes of Health, collaborated to develop a simple, safe eye test for measuring a protein related to cataract formation. If subtle protein changes can be detected before a cataract develops, people may be able to reduce their cataract risk by making simple lifestyle changes. The new device is based on a laser light technique called dynamic light scattering (DLS) that was initially developed to analyze the growth of protein crystals in a zero-gravity space environment. NASA’s Dr. Rafat R. Ansari, senior scientist at Glenn Research Center, brought the technology’s possible clinical applications to the attention of NEI vision researchers when he learned that his father’s cataracts were caused by changes in lens proteins. “We have shown that this non-invasive technology that was developed for the space program can now be used to look at the early signs of protein damage due to oxidative stress, a key process involved in many medical conditions, including agerelated cataracts and diabetes, as well as neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimers and Parkinsons,” said Dr. Ansari. “By understanding the role of protein changes in cataract formation, we can use the lens not just to look at eye disease, but also as a window into the whole body.” The DLS technique will assist vision scientists in looking at long-term lens changes due to aging, smoking, diabetes, and LASIK surgery. In addition, NASA researchers will continue to use the device to look at the impact of long-term space travel on the visual system. “During a three-year mission to Mars, astronauts will experience increased exposure to space radiation that can cause cataracts and other problems,” Dr. Ansari explained. “In the absence of proper countermeasures, this may pose a risk for NASA. This technology could help us understand the mechanism for cataract formation so we can work to develop effective countermeasures to mitigate the risk and prevent it in astronauts.” For more information, visit here.

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NASA Tests First Deep-Space Internet

NASA has successfully tested the first deep-space communications network modeled on the Internet. Part of a NASAwide team, engineers from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA, used software called Disruption-Tolerant Networking (DTN) to transmit dozens of space images to and from a NASA science spacecraft located more than 20 million miles from Earth.

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James Webb Telescope Components Pass Tests

Development models for components of the Mid-Infrared Instrument on NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) passed a series of temperature and vibration tests that show they can survive the ride to space. Now, engineers have begun building parts of the actual instrument.

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NASA Study Shows How Oil Production Impacts Climate

When and how global oil production will peak has been debated, making it difficult to anticipate emissions from the burning of fuel and to precisely estimate its impact on the climate. To better understand how emissions might change in the future, Pushker Kharecha and James Hansen of NASA’s Goddard In stitute for Space Studies in New York considered a wide range of fossil fuel consumption scenarios.

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NASA and Ocean Tomo Establish Groundbreaking Partnership to Commercialize NASA Technologies

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (Greenbelt, MD) and Ocean Tomo Federal Services, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Ocean Tomo, LLC (Chicago, IL), announced a partnership to commercialize NASA-funded technologies. The partnership will focus on maximizing the value of NASA Goddard inventions by facilitating transfer of over 40 technologies to the private sector for commercial application. “A major component of NASA Goddard’s Innovative Partnerships Program’s mission is to transfer NASA technology to the commercial marketplace,” said Nona Cheeks, Chief of NASA Goddard’s IPP Office, which facilitated the licensing arrangement. “We look forward to working with Ocean Tomo to create greater awareness of the technological innovations available at NASA Goddard.” Ocean Tomo plans to offer the right to license NASA’s technologies through its IP transaction platforms, including Live Public Auction, Private Brokerage, and Patent/Bid-Ask™ as well as IPX International™. “While both NASA and Ocean Tomo stand to benefit from the agreement, the ultimate beneficiary,” said Cheeks, “is the taxpayer. This groundbreaking collaboration between Goddard and Ocean Tomo accelerates the commercialization of NASA technologies into new and advanced products that help improve quality of life,” she added. For more information, contact Darryl Mitchell, technology transfer manager in Goddard’s IPP Office, at 301- 286-5169, Darryl.R.Mitchell@nasa.gov; or Connie Chang at 240-482-8204, cchang@oceantomo.com.

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NASA Challenges Students to Design a Supersonic Airliner

A new NASA competition challenges high school and college students to research and design a small, supersonic airliner that could enter commercial service in the next decade. During the 2008-2009 academic year, individuals and teams of high school students will prepare well-documented short papers describing what needs to be accomplished to make supersonic flight available to commercial passengers by 2020. Advanced-curriculum high school students and college students will prepare longer papers that depict a highly efficient, environmentally friendly commercial aircraft that would emit only low sonic booms, and be ready for initial service in 2020.

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Last Chance to Design & Win!

If you haven’t entered your unique design idea that you feel should be out on the market, you only have until October 17 to enter your invention in the seventh annual NASA Tech Briefs “Create the Future” Design Contest, presented by SolidWorks Corp. Visit www.createthefuture- contest.com for complete rules and to submit your idea.

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