Sports Image Gallery U.S. swimmer Anita Nall swims to a bronze medal at the 1995 Pan American Games in Mar del Plata, Argentina. See more sports pictures. Al Bello/Getty Images A riblet may sound more like a barbecue restaurant appetizer than a NASA drag-reduction technology, but don't tell that to the athletes that swam to victory at the 1995 Pan American Games. Their riblet-enhanced suits helped them take home 13 gold medals, three silver medals and one bronze medal. NASA's Langley Research Center developed riblets -- tiny, v-shaped grooves angled in the direction of fluid flow -- in the early 1980s to reduce drag caused by friction on the aircraft's surface. Although they're no bigger than a scratch, the tiny ridges have a powerful effect on aerodynamic drag (the force that slows an object as it moves through a fluid) because they alter turbulent airflow near the skin [source: NASA; "NASA Riblets for Stars & Stripes"]. Air and water are both fluids, so it was only natural … [Read more...] about Why did NASA invent the ribbed swimsuit?
Start the Countdown Space Exploration Image Gallery The Space Shuttle Discovery lifts off from launch pad 39B on July 26, 2005, in Cape Canaveral, Fla. See more space exploration pictures. NASA/Getty Images Since its beginnings in 1958, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has had to invent everything it needed to make space missions possible, from protective suits for astronauts to the mirrors and software used on the Hubble telescope. But NASA was smart enough to know it couldn't do everything alone -- these are, after all, rocket scientists. It has partnered with businesses and scientists around the country to create some of the most amazing inventions the planet has ever seen, and not just Tang, the powdered orange drink famously used by astronauts on Gemini missions in the 1960s. Take a look at these five amazing inventions, which were all developed by NASA for use in space but have found some amazing Earth-bound applications. … [Read more...] about 5 NASA Inventions You Won’t Believe
Start the Countdown NASA has a long tradition of generating spin-off technologies. See more rocket pictures. Hemera/Thinkstock Over the course of the United States' decades-long dash in the Space Race, and during the many years since, lots of NASA-related innovations have proven useful down here on Earth. From medicine to public safety and sports equipment to transportation, there are all sorts of examples of products invented or improved upon by the work of NASA researchers and the various companies they contract with on projects. In this article, we'll learn more about five technologies driven forward by the work of NASA, ones that have also helped green the planet in the process. … [Read more...] about 5 Green NASA Inventions
Astronaut Image Gallery There are no convenient portable toilets when you're doing a little extravehicular activity in space. See more astronaut pictures. Image courtesy NASA Developing cutting-edge technologies for an audacious purpose, such as rocketing to the moon or peering back through time to the beginning of the universe, can produce innovations with a surprising variety of applications. For example, memory foam, developed by NASA in 1966 to absorb shock in airplane seats, ultimately found uses in Tempur-Pedic mattresses, football helmets, shoes, hospital beds, prosthetics, cars, amusement parks and modern art. The space agency also has transformed products that it didn't invent, as when NASA engineers developed more rugged bar code readers, more accurate quartz clocks and smoke detectors with adjustable sensitivities. Digital image enhancement, the go-to plot device for police procedurals like "CSI Miami," was developed by NASA in the mid-1960s to enhance images of the … [Read more...] about How did NASA change diapers forever?
Doctors work with a high-resolution 3D image of a human skull at the NASA Ames Research Center in 1998. NASA/Getty Images Most Americans don't go a week -- maybe not even a day -- without encountering something that owes at least part of its origins to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). That's true in the home medicine cabinet, the doctor's office and the hospital. NASA's role in medical breakthroughs is no accident. When Congress established NASA in 1958, it required the space agency to share information about its discoveries. NASA was also given the go-ahead to patent inventions and help businesses develop commercial uses for them. Some medical breakthroughs are the result of NASA's partnerships with other researchers. Some came because NASA scientists saw other applications for discoveries they made or technologies they developed while keeping spacecraft flying and astronauts healthy. NASA reports the commercial use of its inventions in its annual … [Read more...] about What breakthroughs in medicine came from NASA?
Do pretty flowers like these come to mind when you think of NASA or sewage? Probably not -- but maybe they should. Cristina Merlo/Getty Images In space, no one can hear you flush. But that doesn't mean that human waste isn't an issue for NASA scientists and engineers. The conventional space toilet stores solid waste for the return trip home and jettisons the liquid into the void. But what about really long-term missions, like proposed flights to Mars or beyond? Couldn't all that waste be put to better use? Starting in the 1970s, NASA researchers began looking into ways to recycle human waste as fertilizer for space gardens and even turn wastewater into clean drinking water [source: Wolverton]. Around that time, a researcher named Bill Wolverton discovered that swamp vegetation in Florida was successfully cleaning up waters that had been polluted with Agent Orange from a nearby military facility. NASA brought Wolverton to its Stennis Space Center in Mississippi to lead a team of … [Read more...] about What does NASA have to do with sewage treatment?