Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Forward Looking


I admit that I have a love for NASA, flight, and space science in general.  It is fascinating, beautiful, and such a frontier of new possibilities.  And, I will also admit that it was time for the elegant orbiters to be phased out for new technology.  But, I do find it absolutely bitterly ironic that now; that the space shuttle program is done that it came as some sort of surprise.  I hear the question in the news, “What now?”  What do we do now?  And I hear well meaning, but ignorant statements, from others saying “Good riddance – a waste of money”. 

To the first I have to shake my head, what in heaven’s name did you think was going to happen when people said it was the last shuttle mission?  As I said before, I do think it was time for the shuttle to be phased out.  The technology used which was incredibly advanced in its design and use, needs to be updated.  And, there is a program being designed for the future.  A rocket and a capsule reminiscent of Apollo are in the works for future missions.  So, it is coming, but will take time to develop.

For the latter, I’d like to share a few “spin-off” products that have come from space science.  Unless of course, you would like to remove your scratch resistant glasses and skip this part.  Yes, scratch resistant lenses are a product that came from the science.  Or what about temper foam.  More than just Temperpedic mattresses, this also makes its way into motorcycle seats, padding for artificial limbs, and protection in racecars for drivers.  Measuring the temperature of stars with infrared temperatures led to thermometers that measure temperatures via the ear.  It is more accurate than the mercury, not to mention much faster.  Better ditch the shoes, because the soles of the running shoes have been impacted (pun intended J)by moon boots.  The lessons learned in creating these boots led to the athletic shoes we have now, which spread weight impact across the foot in athletic activities.  Dustbusters, cordless drills, and other cordless tools are a result of a need for working in space.  It would take quite the extension cord otherwise.  Home security systems have been developed, along with satellite technology, and insulation for more efficient heat and cool retention. 
A few of the others that have been impacted, brought about by, or further developed by NASA are:
  • ·         Toothpaste
  • ·         Cosmetics and lotions that are safe and effective
  • ·         A really cool smart valve that prevents scalding
  • ·         Sewage treatments
  • ·         Water softeners
  • ·         Remote control technology
  • ·         Enriched baby food
  • ·         Water purification
  • ·         Gardening in tight spaces
  • ·         Software – that you may be using right now
  • ·         New metal alloys that are stronger and can be made into more materials with less vibration and last longer
  • ·         Shock reduction materials in sports helmets, football gear, athletic protective pads for a variety of sports,
  • ·         Light bulb advances
  • ·         Carbon monoxide detectors
  • ·         UV blocking in glasses
  • ·         Pilot testing for flight stresses
  • ·         Cleaner engines
  • ·         Air filtration systems
  • ·         Scanners found everywhere from the grocery store to the airline gateway
  • ·         Plasma displays for TV’s and mega screens alike
  • ·         Truck design that is more efficient to move through the air, thus using less fuel
  • ·         Lubricants used in cars, homes, and oh yes – the space shuttle
  • ·         New power plant designs that help withstand earthquakes, hurricanes, and other disasters
  • ·         Chemical detectors that warn again dangerous chemicals
  • ·         Refrigerators at the grocery store that help keep the food safe
  • ·         Food imaging that can detect harmful chemicals in meats
  • ·         Light emitting medical treatments – so cool, being used as a form of ways to help treat cancer
  • ·         Artificial insulin pumps, artificial limbs, and artificial hips
  • ·         A heart pump that is based on the fuel system!
  • ·         Bridges that are better supported and thus safer
  • ·         Biodegradable cleaners
  • ·         Fire fighting gear and fire resistant materials

I look at this list, it isn’t complete, and am amazed at all of the products which have either been a direct result of or a trickle-down effect of the technology that has come about since the inception of the space program.  One man presented a goal for the country, a man on the moon.  He set up a timeline in a big public way, and what the expectation was for meeting this goal.  The country was enthused and imagination took flight along side of each rocket.  Then, we lost interest.  It wasn’t the latest and greatest.  Okay – yeah, we went to the moon.  And, we had a short view.  Unfortunately, our short view is still short.  We again have been caught in a time with a declining public interest in exploration.  Who will step up with a goal, something broad and expansive, amazing and imagination capturing?  Who will step forth and create new industry, new growth, and new possibilities?  Who will create the dreams of children for the future?  Who will watch the next great leap forward in science occur?  Who will be the next pilgrim of space?  Encourage your children to look up to the sky and dream.  Maybe, it will be them.