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July 2002 Edition


What Space-age Inventions Have You Touched Today?

Exploring space is not easy.  Space engineers and scientists have invented many new things to make it safe and not too expensive to go into space.  Some of the inventions are used to help humans live in space.  Showers and toilets that work without gravity are examples of inventions used on the Space Shuttle and International Space Station. Other inventions are used on spacecraft going to Mars and beyond.

Many things invented for space are also very useful right here on Earth.  New inventions or new uses for things invented for space are called "spinoffs."  For example, special materials were developed for space suits to protect astronauts from the harsh environment of space.  These same materials are used in the special clothing that fire fighters wear to protect them from the harsh environment of a building on fire!  Cordless tools were invented for the Apollo astronauts to use on the moon.  Cordless drills and vacuum cleaners are examples of spinoffs from these inventions.

Doctors can now take amazing pictures of people's insides to find out exactly what is wrong with them.  These pictures are possible because of technology developed to process pictures from space.  And what about the TV satellite dish you may have on your roof?  Space program technology helped to make those pictures and sounds crisp and clear.

If it weren't for the space program, some of these wonderful inventions might never have come about!  Find out about more space program spinoffs and play the Spinoffs Memory Game at The Space Place, http://spaceplace.nasa.gov/spinoffs.htm .

This computer game joystick, made by ThrustMaster, uses technology developed for a Space shuttle hand controller.  The design for these toy gliders (AeroNerf Gliders), made by Hasbro, Inc., benefited from NASA wind tunnel and aerodynamic research.

The Space Place is a web site for children with fun and educational activities and facts related to many of NASA's space missions. This article was provided by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, managed by Caltech in Pasadena.