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Space: NASA’s coolest inventions that you actually use in everyday life (Part 4)

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If you’re a human living in the 21st century, chances are NASA has saved your life. Well, maybe not, but they’ve definitely helped you stay healthy.

As technology improves, so too does our life expectancy, and space travel has indirectly been adding on those years.

Techly has already outlined the environmental, safety and vanity-based technologies that have made our lives simpler, but now it’s time to get closer to your ticker.

Ear thermometer

Ear thermometer

Open your mouth and say ‘aaah’… Oh, wait. (Thinkstock)


No one likes having a thermometer stuck down his or her throat, we’d much prefer one stuck in our ears, right?

Ears for some reason are more comfortable for dealing with a probe than the throat, and NASA’s responsible for the development of the aural thermometer.

It began with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab inventing an infrared sensor to measure the temperature of stars. The Technology Affiliates Program, together with the Diatek Corporation, took it to the next level, producing the ear thermometer, which uses sensors to capture body temp via the energy given off our eardrums.

Neat, huh? Mercury, see ya later. The next time you read a mind-numbingly unoriginal newspaper report that leads with “the mercury hit 42 degrees in Coolangatta on Thursday”, calmly send them a memo that it’s no longer relevant.

Those lousy mercury thermometers were hard to read, and sometimes of the rectal nature. They were phased out from 1991, officially.

But what has the infrared thermometer done for us, apart from increased comfort? It allows quicker measurements for newborns, critically ill or the incapacitated, and reduces the time nurses spend monitoring their patients. Two seconds, “Next!”. They’ve also been used to monitor people for Ebola, most recently.

The infrared thermometer is also useful for measuring temperature under circumstances where thermocouples or other probe-type sensors cannot be used. One example that will blow your mind just a tiny bit? They can be used to very quickly detect the presence of clouds when trying to operate huge scientific telescopes by remote control. Awesome.

Artificial limbs

Prosthetic limb

Milk just tastes better from the prosthesis. (Thinkstock)


Last week, Techly mentioned that NASA were helping out to defuse landmines. Well, they’re also helping in rehabilitating those poor souls who’ve lost limbs to the deadly explosions.

NASA’s research and experiments in robotics and shock absorption are helping the private health sector to create new and better solutions for prostheses, through Environmentals Robotic Incorporated.

NASA continue funding to this day and are striving to create dynamic and efficient artificial limbs that look and feel more natural.

Heart pump (ventricular assist device)

Ventricular assist device

Of course all that dairy can lead to other problems (Madhero88 / Wikimedia Commons)


Heart problems are increasing in our fat and lazy society. Obesity levels in Australia are some of the highest in the world, and with that comes depleting tickers.

Heart donors are hard to find. Many people don’t bother donating their organs, while only a small amount of people cark it with their heart in mint condition and suitable for transplant.

Those with heart disease are usually fighting a losing battle and there are as many as 1500 people on organ transplant lists at any time in Australia.

Yet NASA, in collaboration with Dr Michael DeBakey, Dr George Noon, and MicroMed Technology, developed the ventricular assist device, which pumps blood around the body while patients wait for a new engine.

It’s been lifesaving, no words minced. It functions as a “bridge to heart transplant” and can keep critically ill patients alive. It weighs little more than 100 grams and is three to eight centimetres long.

The contraption is less invasive, more suitable for smaller adults and children, and reduces device-related infections.

The little piece of magic can also operate for eight hours on batteries, so people can live a reasonably unobstructed life.

NASA, we salute you.

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