Monday, August 24, 2009

What Has NASA Done For You, Part 1

It seems that most conversations about the manned space program these days eventually come around to the cost. Even though the budget for NASA is approximately one half of one percent of the national budget, people tend to think that all NASA does is waste money launching scientists into space. Fortunately for you, my wonderful readers, we have an Unkk on our side. He sent me a lengthy list of things that affect our daily lives that are a direct result of the manned space program. There are a lot of them, so I'll break this up over several posts, but the next time some yob mouths off about how the money could be better spent building a sport stadium, or other such nonsense, here is some ammo to use.

Cooling Suits Provide Comfort

Cool suits, which kept Apollo astronauts comfortable during moon walks, are today worn by race car drivers, nuclear reactor technicians, shipyard workers, people with multiple sclerosis and children with a congenital disorder known as hypohidrotic ectodermal dysplasia, which restricts the body’s ability to cool itself.

Recycling Fluids for Space Missions Simplifies Kidney Dialysis

Special kidney dialysis machines were created as a result of a NASA-developed chemical process that removes toxic waste from used dialysis fluid. The process saves electricity and eliminates the need for a continuous water supply, granting the patient greater freedom.

Astronaut Conditioning Equipment Keeps People Fit

A cardiovascular conditioner developed for astronauts in space led to the invention of a physical therapy and athletic development machine used by football teams, sports clinics, and medical rehabilitation centers.

Space Suit Technology Modernizes Athletic Shoes

Athletic shoe design and manufacturing also benefited from Apollo. Space suit technology is incorporated into a shoe's external shell, and a stress-free "blow molding" process adapted from NASA space suit design is used in the shoe's fabrication.

Reflective Materials Insulate Homes

Insulating barriers made of metalized foil laid over a core of propylene or mylar, which protected astronauts and their spacecraft's delicate instruments from radiation and heat, are now found in common home insulation. Vacuum metalizing techniques also led to an extensive line of commercial products, from insulated outer garments to packaging for foods, from wall coverings to window shades, from life rafts to candy wrappings, and from reflective safety blankets to photographic reflectors.

Apollo Life Support Systems Filter Water

Water purification technology used on the Apollo spacecraft is now employed in several spinoff applications to kill bacteria, viruses and algae in community water supply systems and cooling towers. Filters mounted on faucets reduce lead in water supplies.

Freeze-Dried Foods Preserve Nutrients, Increase Shelf Life

Freeze-dried food solved the problem of what to feed an astronaut on the long-duration Apollo missions. Freeze drying foods preserves nutritional value and taste, while also reducing weight and increasing shelf life.

So there's your first batch. Tune in tomorrow for more of What has NASA done for you?



Jakob - Nerd Hurdles said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jakob - Nerd Hurdles said...

I still feel a lot of these discoveries would have occured without the space program, with research aimed specifically towards water filtration or kidney problems. But perhaps not. I will say I'd hate to think this is the silver-insulation lining to the the cloud of humanity and that we needed the space program to filter money towards solutions to the issues you've highlighted.

Marius said...

I'm not necessarily saying that these issues would not have been dealt with by other means, I'm just illustrating that there is a tangible return on investment in the space program beyond the obvious expansion of human knowledge and understanding.

Anonymous said...

I bet the list of stuff developed WITHOUT NASA is longer than the stuff developed WITH NASA!!

Marius said...

Most assuredly so, just as the list of living humans before we started pumping billions into Iraq was longer than it is now, but neither argument has any relevance here.

C.L.J. said...

Freeze-dried food was perfected for the space program, but dates back to the Civil War. The early attempts at "dessicated foods" was referred to as "desecrated foods" by the troops.

But TANG is all NASA. Mmmmm, Tang...

But Jakob, most of these discoveries addressed mission-critical needs for the space program. Even the freeze-dried food concept languished for most of a century because other alternatives filled the need without taking drastic measures.

Another example of something created before the space program, but only achieved commerical appeal until it was adapted for space: velcro was developed in Switzerland in 1941, and the inventor couldn't find anyone interested in developing it - until the space program needed a way to temporarily secure items to keep them from floating loose in microgravity.

The manned space program was and is a critical catalyst that benefits humanity at every level. And if you don't believe that, well, it just means you don't know nearly enough to judge.

Jakob - Nerd Hurdles said...

Freeze-dried food is NOT an advancement.

Jakob - Nerd Hurdles said...

Nor is velcro.

C.L.J. said...

Freeze-dried food is NOT an advancement.
Freeze-dried food is absolutely an advancment in food preservation technology. It prevents food from rotting without adding any chemicals to the food, while maintaining the nutritive value of the product. That's a distinct advancement over salting, brining or even canning.

nor is Velcro
Really? Then why has it replaced so many other kinds of fastenings? It's replaced laces, buckles, buttons, and zippers.

Perhaps you should begin by looking up the word "advancement" before making pronouncements on what is and isn't one.

Jakob - Nerd Hurdles said...

Velco has replaced so many fasteners because people are lazy and apparently don't mind that zipping/ripping sound. Some people even like it. I don't get that, but each to their own.

Regarding the "advancement" of freeze-dried foods, I think one would have to consider what one needs out of their food. Being edible is pretty high on my list. I have to admit, I haven't tested a lot of freeze-dried foods. But those I have tried, I found to be practically inedible. Give me a jar of pickles over freeze-dried cucumbers any day. I like as little preservatives in my foods as the next guy, but I think we have to draw a line somewhere before calling it an advancement. I do not feel freeze-dried foods are an advancement in our way of life.

CLJ said...

Luckily for the world, Jakob, your personal defintion of "advancement" doesn't matter. We use the dictionary's definition.

cinnamon girl said...

Wow, this reminds me of Life of Brian.....

"so what have the Romans ever done for us? They've bled us dry! And what did they ever give us in return?"

"er.... the aqueduct?"

"yes, but apart from that...."

The roads?"

Etc until:

"but apart from better sanitation and medicine and education and irrigation and public health and roads and a freshwater system and baths and public order ... what have the Romans done for us?"

Marius said...

ROTFLMAO, Cinnamon Girl. Welcome to the Corner. :-)

And just to add a bit more silliness, the word captcha I must copy is 'newom' which is very close to 'niiii-wom!' which is one of the sacred words kept by the Knights of Ni.

Jakob - Nerd Hurdles said...

Unluckily for the world, Chris, the dictionary definition is going to "advance" life on this planet into oblivion. Which is where our semantic differences lay, I believe.

celebhith said...

Who knew the corner would be, or could be, so controversial????? I'll content myself with a good "mmmmm," and "interesting" and opt out of the comments for now.

clj said...

the dictionary definition is going to "advance" life on this planet into oblivion.

Jakob, your world view is simply not supported by thousands of years of human history. Every major strive in human history was financed by "taxpayer dollars," or more accurately, a government.

Jakob, I suggest you look up a BBC series called "Connections." It's simply the best documentary on human discovery available.

Jakob - Nerd Hurdles said...

I believe my world view is precisely supported by thousands of years of human history. I was never arguing against government spending, I'm not sure where you got the idea I was. But I think you're correct, most of the advancements which have lead to the current fragile state of Earth's ecosystems is due to government spending. As will be any solution that humanity comes up with. And maybe those solutions will be as a bi-product of the space-program. who's to say.

I love "Connections." It's a fabulous show. I think in many ways it abcks up my views nicely.