Some everyday innovations as varied as a solid golf club and a high-quality selfie owe their existence to NASA technologies.
NASA published its 2017 edition of “Spinoff” – a profile of 50 commercial technologies originally designed for NASA missions and research.
Since 1976, NASA has published an annual document introducing run-of-the-mill items inspired by NASA innovations.
Here are seven of the most common objects on this year’s list.
1. Crash-test cameras
- Tom Pennington/Getty Images
NASA needed high-speed, rugged cameras to record parachute testing for its landing systems.
The agency reached out to the California-based company Integrated Design Tools, which built a camera that could record 1,000 frames a second and immediately store the data.
That same technology is used in cameras that record vehicle crash tests.
2. Laser imaging: from space to underneath soil
NASA uses laser-imaging technology, known as LIDAR, on missions in outer space. LIDAR, which measures distances using laser light, can be used to develop high-resolution maps, among many other things.
NASA helped design smaller versions that are used on the ground. Archaeologists use them to help unearth artifacts. LIDAR is also being used in autonomous-driving technology.
3. From a screw thread to golf clubs
- Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
It turns out that spacecraft design and golf-club engineering have some similarities.
An innovation called the “Spiralock” is an advanced screw thread designed by the Holmes Tool Company. NASA sought the company out because it needed an advanced screw that could withstand the rigors of a space launch.
It is being used in golf clubs, too.
4. Brain-surgery tools
- John Moore/Getty Images
Neurosurgeons employ bipolar forceps, which use electricity to cut and cauterize tissue. But electricity in the forceps generates extra heat that must be dissipated to avoid damaging healthy brain tissue.
A company called Thermacore has a solution that NASA had been using since the early days of space flight. Heat pipes. A scaled-down version was created for bipolar forceps, helping to ensure the safety and effectiveness of neurosurgery.
5. Earthquake protection
A NASA-developed technology that used liquid fuel to prevent vibrations in the Ares 1 rocket was adapted to help stabilize buildings and bridges during earthquakes.
Now the NASA-derived technology, licensed by the engineering firm Thornton Tomasetti for commercial use, has been installed on a new building in Brooklyn, New York.
- Charles Platiau/Reuters
NASA helped Florikan, a fertilizer company in Florida, develop a fertilizer that doesn’t dissolve too quickly, ensuring that plants get the right amount of nutrients from the fertilizer at the right time.
That fertilizer is now being used around the world – and in space.
7. From space photography to selfies
- BuzzFeed Motion Pictures/Screenshot
You are using NASA-derived technology when you take a picture with your smartphone.
A sensor adapted from complementary metal-oxide semiconductors was developed by NASA engineer Eric Fossum in the 1990s. Though the semiconductors have been used in computers for years, NASA says Fossum was the first person to successfully adapt it for picture-taking.