NASA Spinoff

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.

Originating Technology/NASA Contribution

On Earth, gravity can cause a lot of stress to a person’s bones and muscles, whether the stress is caused by running a marathon or simply climbing a staircase. However, in space, the lack of gravity can also cause problems for astronauts’ bodies. NASA is seeking ways to combat these problems, and the solutions are finding application here on Earth.

Originating Technology/NASA Contribution

In January 2009, birds struck the engines of US Airways Flight 1549 and forced an emergency landing into the Hudson River. Everyone on board survived, and the crew was lauded for remaining calm under pressure and keeping passengers safe. The pilot, Captain Chesley Sullenberger, is a former U.S. Air Force pilot, trained in Crew (or cockpit) Resource Management (CRM) which originated at NASA in 1979. Even before they knew they had an emergency, the crew was using specific training for safe and effective operations: all parts of key NASA CRM methods required by US Airways since 1995.

Originating Technology/NASA Contribution

Beginning in 1985, a team of engineers at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore began developing software to manage various time-consuming tasks for the Hubble Space Telescope, launched in 1990. In the early phases of development, the complexity of scheduling different tasks became clear when the engineers realized Hubble’s power restrictions.

Originating Technology/NASA Contribution

Astronauts, pilots, air traffic controllers, truck drivers, shift workers, and mountain climbers have something in common: All are at risk for impaired cognitive abilities due to stress or sleep deprivation. Whether in space or on Earth, stress and sleep loss can cause a reduction in certain cognitive abilities, such as working memory, reaction time, and problem solving. Because mission safety and success depend on being able to think clearly and function well, NASA began exploring a small, portable way for astronauts to monitor themselves and their cognitive fitness while in space, especially on future missions to Mars that will require extended periods in stressful environments.

Originating Technology/NASA Contribution

For astronauts returning to Earth, adjusting to full gravity can be just as demanding as any of the challenges they faced in space. While readjusting to Earth’s gravitational pull, astronauts can experience difficulties moving and balancing, headaches, nausea, and even fainting spells.

Subcategories

The U.S. Government does not endorse any commercial product, process, or activity identified on this web site.