We have NASA to thank for many of the technologies we use in our daily lives -- everything from memory foam and freeze-dried food, to sunglasses that protect our eyes against UV light and the cameras in our smartphones. The agency says there are more than 2,000 commercial products out there that were influenced in some way by NASA’s know-how.
But the inventions spearheaded in-house aren’t the only ones that are making an impact. Through initiatives like the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program and the Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/SBTT), NASA regularly funds proposals for some seriously impressive tech.
Read on for eight examples of innovators that have inspired the space agency’s confidence.
It seems like something you would see in a sci-fi movie, but it’s actually being developed right now. SpaceWorks Engineering is creating pods designed to hold astronauts in suspended sleep as they travel from Earth to Mars.
A company called Tethers Unlimited submitted a proposal for an apparatus called the Weightless Rendezvous And Net Grapple to Limit Excess Rotation (WRANGLER) system. It’s basically a giant butterfly net for space debris. If anything, you have to be impressed by their skill in finding a perfect acronym.
3-D-printing company Made in Space is working on Project RAMA -- Reconstituting Asteroids into Mechanical Automata -- which would turn asteroids into simple, programmed space ships.
Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic Technology and researchers at neighboring Carnegie Mellon University teamed up to develop robots that could leap into caves and tunnels on Mars and go rappelling and spelunking.
If you feel a little helpless when your smartphone battery falls below 20 percent, think about how that would feel if you were more than 200 miles above Earth. Aurora Flight Sciences Corporation is working on an all-purpose battery charger for all of the gadgets aboard the International Space Station.
Orbital Technologies Corporation (ORBITEC) is responsible for the Vegetable Production System (VEGGIE), the apparatus that has enabled astronauts aboard the ISS to grow lettuce and flowers. Potatoes may be possible down the line.
In an effort to cut down on property damage and loss in the event of wild weather patterns, Mississippi-based WorldWinds partnered with NASA to create a more refined system for predicting major storms and mapping floods in coastal areas.
A California architect named Marc M. Cohen put forth a proposal for robotic systems that would be programmed to carry out missions and mine natural resources from asteroids.