Technology Advances through Space Shuttle Era

July 25, 2011

The shuttle era may be coming to a close, but a lot of the technology developed for the program will live on in terrestrial surroundings.

From its inception in 1958, NASA has developed or contracted for technology that eventually turned up in people’s homes and cars, from better water filters and freeze-dried food to wireless devices and Dustbusters.

Here are just a few of the technologies that have grown out of the program:

Artificial heart.NASA didn’t invent the artificial heart, of course, but the technology used in space shuttle fuel pumps led to the development of a miniaturized ventricular assist pump by NASA and renowned heart surgeon Dr. Michael DeBakey.

Running cool. Materials from the shuttle’s thermal protection system are used on NASCAR racing cars to protect drivers from the extreme heat generated by the engines.

Cancer treatment. Experiments with growing plants in space led to the development of a lighting technology, using light-emitting diodes, that is now being tested as a way to treat brain tumors in children.

Balance evaluation systems. Astronauts returning from space tend to be a bit wobbly at first, so NASA built devices to measure their equilibrium that are now used to diagnose and treat patients suffering head injury, stroke, chronic dizziness or central nervous system disorders.

Better prosthetics. The light, strong, foam insulation used on the shuttle’s external tank has replaced the plaster used in master molds for prosthetics.

Read full article in Government Computer News to learn about more technology that has grown through the program.