NASA Spinoff

NASA Technology

The famous “go/no go” command for Space Shuttle launches comes from a place called the Firing Room. Located at Kennedy Space Center in the Launch Control Center (LCC), there are actually four Firing Rooms that take up most of the third floor of the LCC. These rooms comprise the nerve center for Space Shuttle launch and processing.

NASA Technology

Voyager 2 sailing beyond the far boundary of the solar system. The rover Opportunity churning across the red soil of Mars. Cassini-Huygens imaging the moons of Saturn. Capable of journeying well beyond the reach of human explorers, NASA’s robotic missions have probed the distant reaches of space, sending back to Earth streams of unique data and images essential to developing an understanding of our universe. These returns are ultimately housed in NASA’s Planetary Data System (PDS), an archive of data products derived from NASA’s robotic missions, from Galileo to Pioneer to Stardust and more. Appropriately massive for the information it contains, the PDS is distributed across the Nation and organized in eight nodes in conjunction with a host of NASA partner institutions.

When compressed air mixes with jet fuel and is ignited in a turbine engine, the temperature can reach 3,000 °F. As a result of this fiery exhaust, the turbine spins and then forces the air through the back of the engine, and the jet moves forward. While extremely hot air assists in propelling a plane, it can also take a toll on the turbine blades and propeller hubs.

When you think of a beating heart, you might assume it beats at regular intervals, but in actuality, velocity and pressure change with every beat, and the time interval between each beat is different. Now a NASA-developed technology is helping researchers understand blood flow and pressure in ways that may improve treatment for victims of brain injury and stroke.

In the 1980s, Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) scientists James Stephens and Charles Miller were studying the harmful properties of light in space, as well as that of artificial radiation produced during laser and welding work. The intense light emitted during welding can harm unprotected eyes, leading to a condition called arc eye, in which ultraviolet light causes inflammation of the cornea and long-term retinal damage.

While the human eye can see a range of phenomena in the world, there is a larger range that it cannot see. Without the aid of technology, people are limited to seeing wavelengths of visible light, a tiny range within the electromagnetic spectrum. Hyperspectral imaging, however, allows people to get a glimpse at how objects look in the ultraviolet (UV) and infrared wavelengths—the ranges on either side of visible light on the spectrum.

Originating Technology/NASA Contribution

In spring 2008, Dr. Scott Dulchavsky diagnosed high-altitude pulmonary edema in a climber over 20,000 feet up the slope of Mount Everest. Dulchavsky made the diagnosis from his office in Detroit, half a world away. The story behind this long-distance medical achievement begins with a seemingly unrelated fact: There is no X-ray machine on the International Space Station (ISS).

Originating Technology/NASA Contribution

You may have heard the phrase “as difficult as walking and chewing gum” as a joking way of referring to something that is not difficult at all. Just walking, however, is not all that simple—physiologically speaking. Even standing upright is an undertaking requiring the complex cooperation of multiple motor and sensory systems including vision, the inner ear, somatosensation (sensation from the skin), and proprioception (the sense of the body’s parts in relation to each other). The compromised performance of any of these elements can lead to a balance disorder, which in some form affects nearly half of Americans at least once in their lifetimes, from the elderly, to those with neurological or vestibular (inner ear) dysfunction, to athletes with musculoskeletal injuries, to astronauts returning from space.

Originating Technology/NASA Contribution

The International Space Station (ISS) is falling. This is no threat to the astronauts onboard, however, because falling is part of the ISS staying in orbit.

Originating Technology/NASA Contribution

On July 5, 1997, a small robot emerged from its lander like an insect from an egg, crawling out onto the rocky surface of Mars. About the size of a child’s wagon, NASA’s Sojourner robot was the first successful rover mission to the Red Planet. For 83 sols (Martian days, typically about 40 minutes longer than Earth days), Sojourner—largely remote controlled by NASA operators on Earth—transmitted photos and data unlike any previously collected.

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