What is a spinoff? Great question! A NASA spinoff is a technology, originally developed to meet our mission needs that has been transferred to the public and now provides benefits as a commercial product or service. Basically, we create awesome stuff and then share it with the world. Here’s a list of just a few NASA spinoff technologies (in no particular order):
1. Enriched Baby Food
While developing life support for Mars missions, NASA-funded researchers discovered a natural source for an omega-3 fatty acid that plays a key role in infant development. The ingredient has since been infused in more than 99% of infant formula on the market and is helping babies worldwide develop healthy brains, eyes and hearts.
2. Digital Camera Sensors
Whether you take pictures and videos with a DSLR camera, phone or even a GoPro, you’re using NASA technology. The CMOS active pixel sensor in most digital image-capturing devices was invented when we needed to miniaturize cameras for interplanetary missions.
3. Airplane Wing Designs
Did you know that we’re with you when you fly? Key aerodynamic advances made by our researchers - such as the up-turned ends of wings, called “winglets” - are ubiquitous among modern aircraft and have saved many billions of dollars in fuel costs.
4. Precision GPS
Uncorrected GPS data can be off by as much as 15 meters thanks to data errors, drift in satellite clocks and interference from Earth’s atmosphere. One of our software packages developed in the 1990s dials in these locations to within centimeters, enabling highly accurate GPS readings anywhere on the planet. One of our most important contributions to modern society, precise GPS is used in everything from personal devices and commercial airplanes to self-driving tractors.
5. Memory Foam
Possibly the most widely recognized spinoff, memory foam was invented by our researchers looking for ways to keep its test pilots and astronauts comfortable as they experienced extreme acceleration. Today, memory foam cushions beds, chairs, couches, car and motorcycle seats, shoes and even football helmets.
6. International Search and Rescue System
We pioneered the technology now used internationally for search and rescue operations. When pilots, sailors or other travelers and adventurers are stranded, they can activate a personal locator bacon that uses overhead satellites to relay their call for help and precise location to authorities.
7. Improvements to Truck Aerodynamics
Nearly every truck on the road has been shaped by NASA - literally. Agency research in vehicle aerodynamic design led to the curves and contours that help modern big rigs cut through the air with less drag. Our contributions to truck design have greatly reduced fuel consumption, perhaps by as much as 6,800 gallons per year for an average vehicle.
8. Shock Absorbers for Buildings and Bridges
Shock absorbers originally designed to survive the extreme conditions of space shuttle launches are now bracing hundreds of buildings and bridges in earthquake-prone regions all over the world. None of which have suffered even minor damage during an earthquake.
9. Advanced Water Filtration
We have recently discovered sources of water on the moon and Mars, but even so space is still practically a desert for human explorers, and every drop possible must be recycled and reused. A nanofiber filer devised to purify water in orbit is currently at work on Earth. From devices that supply water to remote villages, to a water bottle that lets hikers and adventurers stay hydrated using streams and lakes, our technology is being utilized.
10. Invisible Braces
A company working with NASA invented the translucent ceramic that became the first invisible dental braces, which would go on to become one of the best-selling orthodontic products of all time.
So, now that you know a few of the spinoff technologies that we helped develop, you can look for them throughout your day. Visit our page to learn about more spinoff technologies: https://spinoff.nasa.gov
Revealed: hunting strategy of the endangered African wild dog
A new study led by researchers at the Royal Veterinary College has revealed that African wild dogs may be more robust than previously thought.
The researchers used custom-built GPS collars to collect position and speed data to reconstruct the hunt behaviour of an entire pack of African wild dogs in northern Botswana.
The researchers found that given the the opportunity, African wild dogs hunt with frequent short chases. In addition, the pack showed no evidence of coopertive hunting, apart from travelling together and sharing the kills made by an individual dog.
Understanding the hunting strategies of a species helps conservationists to identify which areas should be protected, or where new populations can be reintroduced most successfully.
No but imagine one where you could alternate fandoms each day;
Supernatural Fandom GPS Day:
Bobby: “Ya, idjit, go another half mile and turn back around.” Castiel: “I don’t understand. There is a store called ‘Winchester Gear’? What do they sell? Salt shotgun shells?” Crowley: “I run Hell and I don’t even want to go to this place. Why exactly do you want directions there?”
Harry Potter Fandom GPS Day:
Snape: “Take exit three hundred and ninety four.” McGonagall: “Turn left now, you babbling, bumbling baboon.” Luna: “If you look out your window more often, you’re much more likely to spot a Crumple-Horned Snorkack.”
Sherlock Fandom GPS Day:
Mycroft: “If you could manage it, a left turn this century wouldn’t be your worst decision ever.” Mrs. Hudson: “I’m not even your landlady, dear, but if you want my directions, you’ll go back home and have a nice cuppa.” Lestrade: “Right, what you want to do here is look out for the lane changes, because the traffic can be murder.”
Doctor Who Fandom GPS Day:
Amy Pond: “Ya bloody idiot, what ya wanna go that way for?” River Song: “Oh, are we going somewhere? How exciting!” Clara Oswald: “Drive. Drive you clever human. And remember to always wear your seatbelt.”
Lord of the Rings Fandom GPS Day:
Legolas: “My elf eyes see that you’ll need to turn west in 3 miles.” Gimli: “Increase speed when you get off the interchange. Nobody cuts off a dwarf!” Gollum: “Turn right here, Precious. Yes, right here! Gollum!”
Marvel Fandom GPS Day:
Nick Fury: “I recognize that you missed the turn, but given that it was an important turn, I’m going to need to recalculate now.” Loki: “You missed the turn. Well, I’m not exactly shocked. You must not be truly desperate to reach your destination.” JARVIS: “May I say how refreshing it is to finally see you on the right course?”
You’re probably familiar with GPS as the handy tool to find your way to a new restaurant, or to make sure you don’t end up in the middle of nowhere on a road trip. But its uses are widespread, from farming and mining to banking to weather forecasting, as well as being crucial to security and military operations. Our GPS system is a space-based navigation system made up of 24 satellites in geostationary orbits, sending signals down to GPS enabled devices to help determine precise locations and times.
But both natural phenomena and deliberate attacks pose real threats to these satellites and the way we use them: massive solar flares could disrupt their signals, jamming devices could block GPS devices on the ground, and electromagnetic pulses could shut off the power of a military vessel or aircraft. If you’re in the middle of the ocean or high over enemy territory, losing your navigation system would be a huge problem. That’s why the US Navy have gone back to basics and decided to train their new personnel in a traditional navigation technique known as celestial navigation.
Celestial navigation is an ancient skill, used for most of human history by sailors and explorers who guided their ships based on the stars. It’s a bit more time consuming and unwieldy than GPS, but it works - it basically involves finding the positions of the stars in the sky and then comparing them to an almanac of compiled measurements for various locations. A few calculations later, and voila, the position of your ship can be triangulated to within a few kilometres - no computers of satellites required. This is much less accurate to the few metres precision that GPS gives us, but in a back up, it’s pretty damn handy.
After cutting it out of the curriculum more than a decade ago, the US Naval Academy have now fully reintroduced celestial navigation as a course - and the graduation class of 2017 will be the first in over a decade to graduate with such traditional navigation skills.
After all, malicious forces could potentially bring down GPS systems, but they can’t change the position of the stars in the sky.