NASA Spinoff

Contrary to popular misconception, lightning often strikes the same place twice. Certain conditions are just ripe for a bolt of electricity to come zapping down; and a lightning strike is powerful enough to do a lot of damage wherever it hits. NASA created the Accurate Location of Lightning Strikes technology to determine the ground strike point of lightning and prevent electrical damage in the immediate vicinity of the Space Shuttle launch pads at Kennedy Space Center.

Scientists at work in the Planetary Protection division at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) sterilize everything before blasting it to the Red Planet. They take great pains to ensure that all spacecraft are void of bacterial life, especially the microscopic bacteria that can live hundreds of years in their spore states. No one is quite sure what Earthly germs would do on Mars, but scientists agree that it is safest to keep the Martian terrain as undisturbed as possible. Errant Earth germs would also render useless the instruments placed on exploration rovers to look for signs of life, as the life that they registered would be life that came with them from Earth.

As NASA's lead center for creating robotic spacecraft and rovers, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) builds smart machines that can perform very complicated task far, far away from the homeland.

Responding to a congressional concern about aviation safety, NASA's Ames Research Center created the Ames Fatigue/Jet Lag Program in 1980 to examine the extent to which fatigue, sleep loss, and circadian disruption affect pilot performance. The program’s primary research was conducted in field settings, as well as in a variety of aviation, controlled laboratory, and full-mission flight-simulation environments, to study fatigue factors and circadian disruption in short-haul, long-haul, military, cargo, and helicopter operations.

In preparing to send man to the Moon in the 1960s, no detail was too small for NASA to consider when it came to ensuring that humans and their transporting spacecraft could withstand the powerful thrust of a launch, the harsh and unforgiving conditions of space, and the extremely high temperatures of reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere. When a tragic launch pad flash fire occurred during a routine preflight test of the Apollo 1 spacecraft at Cape Kennedy (renamed Cape Canaveral in 1974), NASA put into action major design and engineering modifications for the Moon-shooting spacecraft, plus revisions to test planning, test discipline, manufacturing processes and procedures, and quality control.

Water is indispensable for human health and well-being. A person cannot live for more than a few days without clean, drinkable water. It is, therefore, one of the most crucial provisions astronauts need to live and work in space, whether orbiting Earth, working at a lunar base, or traveling to Mars.

A laser diode is a semiconductor-based laser used to generate analog signals or digital pulses for transmission through optical fibers or through open air. In simpler terms, it is the type of laser that scans the barcode of a product to determine its price or reads the information stored on a compact disc to play music.

Smoke inhalation injury from the noxious products of fire combustion accounts for as much as 80 percent of fire-related deaths in the United States. Many of these deaths are preventable. Smoke Mask, Inc. (SMI), of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, is working to decrease these casualties with its line of life safety devices.

NASA Technology

In the winter of 2009, Washington, DC, workers faced the prospect of a difficult commute due to record-setting snowfalls. But thousands of the city’s Metrorail riders found the public transportation system fully functional, thanks in part to a NASA technology invented years before.

NASA Technology

Successfully building, flying, and maintaining the space shuttles was an immensely complex job that required a high level of detailed, precise engineering. After each shuttle landed, it entered a maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) phase. Each system was thoroughly checked and tested, and worn or damaged parts replaced, before the shuttle was rolled out for its next mission.


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