25 Coolest NASA Discoveries That Changed Your Life

Posted by on February 4, 2013

Since its inception in 1958, it was made clear by the Space Act that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) should go beyond studying just space ships. The law stipulated that its research and discoveries should benefit the general public. NASA has faithfully stuck with that precept. Today, you come in contact with products everyday that you probably didn’t know were the results of NASA research and development. These 25 coolest NASA discoveries that changed your life are just some of those everyday things we come in contact with that trace their origin back to the government branch commonly linked to space ships and telescopes.


Long-distance Telecommunications

TelecommunicationsUsed for everything from communications and spying to research and development, with around 200 NASA satellites orbiting the Earth everyday, this technology has made it possible for us to stay in touch with people on the other side of the globe instantaneously.

Solar Energy

Solar PowerNASA formed a 28-member union called the Environmental Research Aircraft and Sensor Technology. Its goal was to build a remotely piloted aircraft, made to fly unmanned at high altitudes. The technology was to be flown using solar power so as to not add weight to the aircraft. Because of this invention, millions of homes are now equipped with crystal silicon solar power trimming down traditional energy expenses and reducing pollution.

Artificial Limbs

Artificial LimbsArtificial limbs came into existence as a result of the advancement of artificial muscle systems for use in NASA space robotic and extravehicular activities.

Ventricular Assist Device

VADNASA, in collaboration with Dr. Michael DeBakey, Dr. George Noon, and MicroMed Technology, invented a heart pump for patients waiting for a heart transplant. A heart donor is very difficult to come by so while the patient is on queue, the Ventricular Assist Device pumps blood until a heart donor is available.

Invisible Braces

Invisible BracesKids with braces have to endure taunts about being a geek and nerd. That is why this NASA Discovery come in so handy to those who don’t want to go through the ordeal of having a mouth full of visible metal. Invisible Braces translucent polycrystalline alumina was created by NASA Advanced Ceramics Research in collaboration with a company called Ceradyne to protect the infrared antenna of heat-seeking missile trackers.

Scratch-Resistant Lenses

Scratch-Resistant LensesNASA needed a special coating to protect space equipment from dirt found in the space environment so they came up with their special plastics coating. Now, we’re enjoying sunglasses that are resistant to scratches. What’s better, plastic is cheaper  than glass and is better at absorbing ultraviolet radiation.

Memory Foam

Memory FoamThe open cell polyurethane-silicon plastic was made for NASA aircraft seats to reduce impact during landing. Since it was repackaged for home use, the Memory Foam has been helping millions sleep better at night.

Infrared Ear Thermometers

Ear ThermometerNASA uses infrafred technology to measure the temperature of stars. With this technology, we now have the ear thermometer which captures our body temperature using infrared sensors that detect the amount of energy given off by the eardrum. We’ve been saved from the hassle of a standard mercury thermometer which is a little difficult to read.

Shoe Insoles

Shoe InsolesWhen man landed on the moon, NASA invented a three-dimensional polyurethane foam fabric in boots to set a spring in the astronauts’ stride while giving ventilation. Now, we have shoes that reduce the impact on our legs and feet when we go walking/running.

Smoke Detector

Smoke DetectorNASA invented the first adjustable smoke detector to let astronauts know if there was fire or if noxious gases were loose in Skylab, the first US space station. Now, we’re enjoying safety from fire in our homes thanks to this technology.

Cordless Tools

Cordless ToolWhen man was about to land on the Moon, NASA needed equipment astronauts could use to get rock and soil samples. The tool needed to be lightweight and powerful enough to drill into the moon’s surface. NASA, together with Black and Decker, figured out that attaching a cord to a drill would be difficult for the astronauts so they invented a battery-operated motor drill. Now, cordless tools abound because of this invention.

Water Filters

Water FilterAstronauts needed something to keep the water they bring to space clean. NASA invented a filter with activated charcoal that contains ions to neutralize pathogens in water and now we have the water filter.

Enriched Baby Food

Baby FoodNASA discovered an microalgae that they used as a recycling agent for extended travel to space. The substance, formulated into the products life’s DHA and life’s ARA and based on the microalgae, is now used as a nutritional ingredient found in commercial infant formulas.

Freeze Drying

Freeze DryNASA did major research on space food in preparation for the Apollo missions, and together with Nestle, came up with Freeze Drying – a process that involves dehydration of food to make it more convenient for transport. Food is frozen and the surrounding pressure is reduced to allow the frozen water in food to sublimate directly from the solid phase to the gas phase.

Powdered Lubricants

Powdered LubricantsPS300, a solid lubricant coating was developed by NASA. It is deposited by thermal spraying which protects foil air bearings. PS300,with its ability to reduce friction and emissions, has been widely used in industrial applications such as refrigeration compressors, turbochargers, and hybrid electrical turbogenerators.
David Pegg


After helping found the United Nations, the United States, and United Airlines, David consigned himself to a transient life of writing lists and sleeping on park benches.

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  • Manish

    I used to think that researching outer space was a waste of resources and valuable money. Now my opinions are slightly altered. But i am still questioning is it really worth the tine and billions of dollars

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  • Alan Brown


    We appreciate your “25 Coolest NASA Discoveries That Changed Your Life” web page that we came across today. Your illustrated summaries may do more to educate the public about how NASA research and technology has contributed to the improvement of life than all of the technology transfer and “Spinoff” publications we have developed.

    I especially appreciate your inclusion of the item on solar energy development, as the Environmental Research Aircraft and Sensor Technology (ERAST) project that ran from 1993 through 2001 was developed and managed at our center in Southern California. The company with which we worked to develop high-efficiency silicon solar cells and arrays, SunPower Corp., has gone on to commercialize that NASA-supported technology and has become a major player in the terrestrial solar energy industry, while the firm that developed the solar-electric-powered aircraft under the ERAST project, AeroVironment, Inc., has also gone on to advance the state of the art in miniature unmanned aircraft and their related control systems for both military and civil uses.


    Alan Brown
    News chief, Public Affairs / Media Relations
    Office of Strategic Communications
    NASA Dryden Flight Research Center
    Edwards, Calif.
    (661) 276-2665