Giant Leaps for Mankind

NASA is an ideas factory. The agency has generated countless spin-off innovations in their quest to repeatedly go where no man has gone before. Now as the ageing shuttle fleet heads into retirement and fiscal pressures keep the space program planted on terra firma, it’s worth remembering how imagination and the pursuit of excellence has benefited the rest of us. Here are 10 inventions we use everyday that we owe to rocket science:
  1. Memory foam – we’re all safer and many of us sleep better at night thanks to this one, a foam that can absorb intense pressure but ‘remembers’ its original shape (think mattresses, crash helmets and a raft of other applications)
  2. Ear thermometers – the same technology they use to measure the temperature of the stars means there’s no need to stick anything where the sun doesn’t shine…
  3. Shoe insoles – the technology used in your sneakers was first used in moon boots
  4. Invisible braces – the most popular innovation in the history of orthodontics
  5. Scratch-resistant lenses – tougher, longer-lasting glasses, indispensable for near and far-sighted geniuses without the patience to be more careful
  6. Long-distance telecommunications – NASA didn’t just make the world seem smaller from space – thanks to the satellite you can talk to almost anyone, anywhere, anytime
  7. Adjustable smoke detectors – that is, smoke detectors that can prevent false alarms, straight from the space station
  8. Safety grooving – sounds boring, but is life saving; these are thin grooves first used by NASA to improve runway safety by reducing surface water levels, now used on roads everywhere
  9. Cordless tools – an extension cord would probably be the least cool thing you can imagine in space, so NASA did away with them altogether
  10. Water filters – millions of people use them everyday; NASA was the first to make water taste great in the modern era, so next time you’re grateful for a cool glass of water spare a thought for the space program.

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Kevin Roberts

Kevin Roberts is founder of Red Rose Consulting; business leader and educator; author and speaker; adviser on marketing, creative thinking and leadership.


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