NASA Spinoff

In the mid-1950s, a young U.S. Air Force engineer named Clark Beck began work with what is now one of NASA's most prolific spinoffs, the radiant barrier technology. Beck's work involved creating materials that could withstand the immense heat created by passage through the Earth's atmosphere. He was working on structures and resources that could withstand the fluctuations in temperature created by a skip reentry, where a craft would skip along the surface of the atmosphere, gradually making inroads sufficient for reentry, a process that took the craft from extreme heat to frigid cold every few seconds. The material also needed to withstand millions of pounds of pressure per inch of bending without twisting, the simulated force of reentry. Without reflective material, the craft would get what Beck refers to as red hot wings, and without the required flexibility, the craft would break apart.

The most recognized and widely used NASA spinoff is at it again. Temper foam, whose origins date back to 1966 when it was developed to absorb shock and, thus, offer improved protection and comfort in NASA's airplane seats, has paid its dividends to Earth repeatedly, and in many different ways. It has padded the helmets of the Dallas Cowboys throughout the 1970s and 1980s, protected bedridden patients from bedsores, and comforted the feet of thousands wearing stylish shoes that incorporate the cushioning material in their insoles.

Piezoelectric materials convert mechanical energy into electrical energy and electrical energy into mechanical energy. They generate electrical charges in response to mechanical stress and generate mechanical displacement and/or force when subjected to an electric current.

Astronauts cannot live on dehydrated ice cream alone. Like everyone else, they need their vegetables. Enter VEGGIE, the Deployable Vegetable System, currently under development by Orbital Technologies Corporation (ORBITEC). VEGGIE is the latest in a long line of vegetable production units ORBITEC is currently working on, with NASA assistance, to grow salad crops to supplement prepackaged foods during long stays in space.

Since its dawning days, NASA has been at the forefront of developing and improving materials for aerospace applications. In particular, NASA requires dramatic advancements in material properties to enhance the performance, robustness, and reliability of its launch vehicles, spacecraft, and the International Space Station. Such advancements over the years include noise-abatement materials, fire-resistant fibers, heat-absorbing insulation, and light-but-strong moldable composites.

It is well past quitting time, but you are still stuck in the office. Your spouse left work over an hour ago, but is caught in bumper-to-bumper traffic. As a result, neither of you were available to pick up your daughter on time from her soccer game. If your son hadn't gotten detention at school today which also made him late for work he could have picked her up.

Space is a hostile environment where astronauts combat extreme temperatures, dangerous radiation, and a near-breathless vacuum. Life support in these unforgiving circumstances is crucial and complex, and failure is not an option for the devices meant to keep astronauts safe in an environment that presents constant opposition. A space suit must meet stringent requirements for life support. The suit has to be made of durable material to withstand the impact of space debris and protect against radiation. It must provide essential oxygen, pressure, heating, and cooling while retaining mobility and dexterity. It is not a simple article of clothing but rather a complex modern armor that the space explorers must don if they are to continue exploring the heavens.

NASA has long been known for having developed the thin, shiny reflective material used to insulate everything from the Hubble Space Telescope to hikers, from the Mars rovers to marathon runners, from computers to campers, from satellites to sun shields, and from rockets to residences. It is one of the simplest, yet most versatile spinoffs to come out of the Agency.

When the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) entered the Red Planet's atmosphere in March 2006, it joined the ranks of other noble explorers studying the planet over the past 2,000-plus years. This new NASA orbiter will study the Martian atmosphere and surface, and probe underground in search of past and present water, making it one of the most advanced studies of the planet to date. People have been aware of the existence of Mars and in awe of its presence for centuries, ever since early humans noticed that it did not shimmer like the surrounding stars.

While fashion styles are known to come and go, a certain 'shade' from the past has proved otherwise.

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