In order for NASA astronauts to explore the solar system, they will need to travel not just as pioneers but as settlers, learning to live off the land. Current mission needs have NASA scientists exploring ways to extract oxygen from the lunar soil and potable water from human wastes. One of...

Beginning in 1968, NASA began researching garments to help astronauts stay cool. The Agency designed the Apollo space suits to use battery-powered pumps to circulate cool water through channels in the inner layers of the garments. This led to commercial cooling vests for patients with heat control...

Since designing the first space suits in the 1950s, NASA has been interested in developing materials to keep astronauts comfortable and cool. In order to protect an astronaut from the extreme temperatures in space, engineers at Johnson Space Center created liquid-cooled garments that run water in...

Johnson Space Center, NASA’s center for the design of systems for human space flight, began developing high-resolution visual displays in the 1990s for telepresence, which uses virtual reality technology to immerse an operator into the environment of a robot in...

Try this: Print out a lower-case letter “o” in Times New Roman, 10-point font. Now hold the paper at arm’s length. Viewed from this distance, the area inside the “o” is approximately equal to the area observed in the Hubble Ultra Deep Field, an image taken by the Hubble Space...

One morning in 1990, a group of Glenn Research Center (then Lewis Research Center) employees arrived to find their workspace upended by an apparent hurricane. Papers were scattered, lights blown out. All eyes turned to the door connecting the office to its neighbor: a 20-foot wind...

Water, an increasingly precious commodity on Earth, has always been priceless in space; but “priceless” is a figure of speech—water in space does have a price, and it is an expensive one. A single gallon of water costs over $83,000 to launch just into low-Earth orbit. Despite recent NASA...

Launching the space shuttle involves an interesting paradox: While the temperatures inside the shuttle’s main engines climb higher than 6,000 °F— hot enough to boil iron—for fuel, the engines use liquid hydrogen, the second coldest liquid on Earth after liquid helium.

NASA operates a series of Earth-observing satellites, which help scientists learn more about our home planet. Through partnerships with universities and other government agencies, like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Space Agency helps scientists around the...

As a part of NASA’s active research of the Earth’s atmosphere, which has included missions such as the Atmospheric Laboratory of Applications and Science (ATLAS, launched in 1992) and the Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer (TOMS, launched on the Earth Probe satellite in 1996), the...

A stunning red sunset or purple sunrise is an aesthetic treat with a scientific explanation: The colors are a direct result of the absorption or reflectance of solar radiation by atmospheric aerosols, minute particles (either solid or liquid) in the Earth’s atmosphere that occur both...

Whether for scientific inquiry, weather forecasting, or public safety, the world relies upon the data gathered by satellite remote sensing. Some of NASA’s most valuable work is in its remote sensing capabilities—the ability to retrieve data acquired at great distances—affording a height and scope...

In 1963, during the ninth orbit of the Faith 7 capsule, astronaut Gordon Cooper skipped his nap and took some photos of the Earth below using a Hasselblad camera. The sole flier on the Mercury-Atlas 9 mission, Cooper took 24 photos—never-before-seen images including the Tibetan plateau,...

On December 7, 1972, roughly 5 hours and 6 minutes after launch, the crew of Apollo 17 took one of history’s most famous photographs. The brilliant image of the fully illuminated Earth, the African and Antarctic continents peering out from behind swirling clouds, came to be known as the...

For all the data gathered by the space shuttle while in orbit, NASA engineers are just as concerned about the information it generates on the ground. From the moment the shuttle’s wheels touch the runway to the break of its electrical umbilical cord at 0.4 seconds before its next...

Kennedy Space Center, just off the east coast of Florida on Merritt Island, has been the starting place of every human space flight in NASA’s history. It is where the first Americans left Earth during Project Mercury, the terrestrial departure point of the lunar-bound Apollo astronauts, as...

Three innovative software inventions from Ames Research Center (NETMARK, Program Management Tool, and Query-Based Document Management) are finding their way into NASA missions as well as industry applications.

When we watch a space shuttle launch on television, we have only the vaguest sense of the extraordinary amount of work required to make such a complex operation successful. Even with the most highly trained engineers in the world, designing a space vehicle requires many thousands of hours of...

In order to transmit communications through Earth’s atmosphere, satellites and space vehicles need radio equipment that can operate at higher frequencies than on Earth. These higher frequencies, until recently, have demanded mechanical switches in radio relays. Unfortunately, the mechanical switches...

In 1992, on a gravity assist flyby of Earth that would help propel it along its mission to Jupiter, NASA’s Galileo probe detected a line of light pulses emerging from Earth’s night-darkened hemisphere. Over the next few days, Galileo’s camera imaged similar signals—even though the...

On a Friday night in March 2008, fans at a college basketball game at Atlanta’s Georgia Dome noticed the stadium’s scoreboard begin to sway. Outside, winds howled through the city. Unknown to those in the stadium, a tornado was ripping through downtown. The safety of the more than...

More than 10 billion miles away from Earth, a NASA spacecraft continues a journey that began in 1977. Having long since accomplished its original mission to Jupiter and Saturn, Voyager 1 is the farthest human-made object from Earth, hurtling at more than 38,000 miles per hour toward the...

Consider the anatomy of a rainbow: From the inner arch, violet shifts to blue, then green, yellow, and red. Contained in the rainbow is the spectrum of light that our eyes take in and translate into images of the world around us. But the human eye only registers a minute percentage of the...

The iconic, orange external tank of the space shuttle launch system not only contains the fuel used by the shuttle’s main engines during liftoff but also comprises the shuttle’s “backbone,” supporting the space shuttle orbiter and solid rocket boosters. Given the tank’s...

For all the challenges posed by the microgravity conditions of space, weight is actually one of the more significant problems NASA faces in the development of the next generation of U.S. space vehicles. For the Agency’s Constellation Program, engineers at NASA centers are designing and...

Rocket fuel needs to stay cool—super cool, in fact. The ability to store gas propellants like liquid hydrogen and oxygen at cryogenic temperatures (below -243 °F) is crucial for space missions in order to reduce their volumes and allow their storage in smaller (and therefore, less costly) tanks....

Anyone who has ever experienced an unpleasant jolt from a doorknob after shuffling across the carpet on a dry morning knows that static electricity—also known as triboelectric charging—can be a nuisance. However, many computer enthusiasts are too familiar with how built-up triboelectricity can...

Without the insulating protection of Earth’s atmosphere, orbiting space shuttles, space stations, and satellites are subject to thermal damage from radiation. This damage varies with different orbital parameters, solar activity, and the vehicle’s angle to the Sun, so these external surfaces...

Originating Technology/NASA Contribution

Managed by Goddard Space Flight Center, the Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer (RXTE) was launched on December 30, 1995, from Kennedy Space Center, and to this day, it is still active. The satellite carries several instruments and is part of the...

Originating Technology/NASA Contribution

The Structures and Materials Division at Glenn Research Center is devoted to developing advanced, high-temperature materials and processes for future aerospace propulsion and power generation systems. The Polymers Branch...