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Space: NASA’s coolest inventions that you actually use in everyday life (Part 3)

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The world’s a pretty dangerous place, yet we’re safer than we ever have been – and why is that? Well, NASA’s space travels are coming up with solutions to anything from seriously dangerous conditions like landmines and fighting fire, to better sleep at night.

And no, it’s not ditching the Earth and fleeing for Mars. NASA has helped developed some huge technology to ensure our safety on shaky ground.

As Techly has already outlined in our previous tributes to NASA’s space-inspired technology, NASA have helped us feed babies that don’t even have teeth yet, and provided us with the joys of solar power.

Here’s ever more proof that NASA is striving to keep you safe.

Memory foam

Memory foam

Get a good night’s sleep? Cheers NASA. (Johan, Wikimedia Commons)


It has nothing to do with your memory, or your foamy brain, but everything to do with your bum.

This nifty invention is what’s keeping you asleep at night, or reasonably comfortable when forced to sit next to a large, sweaty man on a 24-hour flight.

The NASA Ames Research Centre developed open-cell polyurethane-silicon plastic foam to use in their aircraft seats, to reduce the impact during landing.

The substance has a unique property that allows it to evenly distribute the weight and pressure it holds and it takes the shape of impressed objects but returns to its original shape afterwards. And it’s now used in just about anything you sit your butt on.

So next time you’ve lucked out and are flying with a dodgy pilot, who likes to bump his way down the airstrip, rest assured your bum will feel no pain. The padding is also used to improve protection in case of a crash, just to make you Aviophobia sufferers out there feel better.

NASCAR have also implemented energy foam in their race cars, while mattresses, pillows, horse saddles, bikes and commercial cars are on board too.

It’s also a life saver for those who get around in wheelchairs. Ever tried sitting in a chair for eight hours a day, seven days a week? Bed sores are inevitable and energy foam helps comfort levels.

Landmine removal

Israel Defense Forces removing landmines

Killing up to 20,000 people per year, NASA has saved lives by helping the process of demining. (Israel Defense Forces / Flickr)


While war and the post-conflict clean-up hasn’t really affected Australians in our short history, for many once war-torn countries it’s a big problem.

In south-east Asia, where both communist and US forces scattered landmines like confetti during the Korea and Vietnam wars, land mines are a daily issue.

A lot of land is cordoned off, while numerous people lose limbs due to stepping on the bastards, with a staggering 15,000 to 20,000 dying yearly from landmines.

Thiokol Propulsion, a leading supplier of rocket motors for NASA, was allowed to use leftover rocket fuel to find a solution to discharging land mines without damaging the environment.

Now owned by ATK, Thiokol Propulsion came up with the Demining Device flare.

Using a battery-triggered electric match, the flare can be ignited from a safe distance. It burns a hold in the mine’s case and burns away the explosives.

As well as getting rid of mines, the flare also found a use for disused rocket fuel, which solidifies quickly and cannot be used in other launches once it does.

If that hasn’t saved lives, I’m not sure what has.

Firefighter gear

Firefighters battling smoke and flame

NASA technology help firefighters deal with heat and smoke. (Thinkstock)


Even though war isn’t something Australians have to worry about too often, natural disasters are a brutal reminder of our mortality.

Recently we’ve had some of the worst fire disasters in the world, thanks to a burning hole in our ozone layer and climate change deniers. Well, the latter aren’t really to blame, but they aren’t bloody helping.

But once again, NASA have come in to help us out. Firefighters get pretty damn close to the heat and without space research they would be losing a lot more battles.

Most of the equipment firefighters use in the US is based on NASA developments designed for the US Space Program.

The US Air Force first used the heat-resistant fabric polybenzimidazole, which NASA then built on and improved. In collaboration with the International Association of Fire Fighters, they created better protective suits.

Lightweight breathing systems were also developed using materials used on rocket castings, helping firefighters deal with, or avoid, smoke inhalation.

And NASA tech is also used in firefighters’ radio communications in the mould of low-cost, short-range two-way radios, which coordinate fire hose lines and increase efficiency.

NASA, you’re a lifesaver.

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