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NASA Technology: The Next 50 Years

“Space exploration is all about inspiration, innovation, and discovery. It’s about imagining the future. It’s about taking new steps, and exploring beyond our limitations, and creating something bigger and grander and better than ourselves. Along the way, there are countless benefits, invaluable discoveries, and technologies borne through the trials of exploration that enhance our lives on Earth. That’s been true for NASA’s first 50 years. And I have no doubt that it will be true in the next five decades.” -NASA Deputy Administrator Shana Dale

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NASA’s First “A”: A Legacy of Aeronautics Innovations

NASA’s predecessor agency, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), began a legacy of aeronautical innovation that continues today. While much of the focus of NASA’s first 50 years has been on the space-related achievements of the agency, it is the first “A” of the NASA acronym — aeronautics — that has resulted in many of the technologies that got the Apollo missions to the Moon, and that continue to improve our air travel safety today.

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50 Years of Inspiration

We wanted NASA Tech Briefs readers to be a part of our special issue celebrating NASA’s 50th anniversary. So, we asked you to tell us how NASA, and NASA Tech Briefs, have inspired you over the past 50 years. We wanted to know how NASA helped you in your career or business, or improved your everyday life. What benefits have you derived from NASA technologies? Although space prohibits publishing every comment here, we thank all of you who shared your stories of inspiration with us.

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NASA Celebrates 50 Years

“The exploration of space will go ahead, whether we join it or not, and it is one of the greatest adventures of all time, and no nation which expects to be the leader of other nations can expect to stay behind in this race for space. “We set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be gained and new rights to be won, and they must be won and used for all people. “We choose to go to the Moon. We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because the goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills.” President John F. Kennedy Rice University September 12, 1962

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Interview with Ray Alderman, Executive Director of VITA

Founded in 1984 to promote VMEbus technology, VITA is a non-profit organization of more than 125 vendor companies who share a common interest in real-time, modular embedded computing systems. In August 2008, VITA's Executive Director, Ray Alderman, agreed to speak with Embedded Technology's editor, Bruce Bennett, about the state of VME technology in 2008, how far it has come in its 30-year history, and where it is likely to go in the future.

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Using Laser Vibrometry to Validate Gossamer Space Structures

NASA has been developing large ultra-lightweight structures commonly referred to as Gossamer space structures for many years to reduce launch costs and to exploit the unique capabilities of particular concepts. For instance, dish antennas are currently being pursued because they can be inflated in space to sizes as large as 30 meters and then rigidized to enable high data rate communications.

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Infrared Radiation Detectors for Thermographic Imaging

Thermographic imaging is accomplished with a camera that converts infrared radiation (IR) into a visual image that depicts temperature variations across an object or scene. The main IR camera components are a lens, a detector in the form of a focal plane array (FPA), possibly a cooler for the detector, and the electronics and software for processing and displaying images (see Figure 1). Most detectors have a response curve that is narrower than the full IR range (900 to 14,000 nanometers or 0.9 to 14 μm). Therefore, a detector (or camera) must be selected that has the appropriate response for the IR range of a user’s application. In addition to wavelength response, other important detector characteristics include sensitivity, the ease of creating it as a focal plane array with micrometer-size pixels, and the degree of cooling required, if any.

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