Special Report

Inventions We Use Every Day That Were Actually Created for Space Exploration

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16. CAT scans

NASA’s digital signal technology, originally used to recreate images of the moon during the Apollo missions, is the underlying technology that makes CAT scans and MRIs possible.

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17. Baby formula

A nutritious, algae-based vegetable oil invented by NASA scientists who were searching for a recycling agent to use during long space missions is now an additive in many infant formulas. It contains two essential fatty acids that cannot be synthesized by the human body.

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18. Lifeshears

The pyrotechnic mechanism used to detach a space shuttle from its rocket boosters after launch is the same used in Lifeshears, but in a smaller scale. Lifeshears are a tool that can be used in emergency situations to cut into cars or collapsed buildings to rescue people trapped inside.

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19. Grooved pavement

The requirements for landing space shuttles led NASA scientists to do extensive research on minimizing hydroplaning — when vehicles slide uncontrollably on a wet surface — on runways. They discovered that cutting grooves into runways helps channel water away from the runway and significantly reduces accidents. Many highways and airports now have grooved pavement.

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20. Air purifier

In the sealed, artificial environment of a spacecraft, attempts to grow plants have led to ethylene buildup. NASA invented an air purifier for the International Space Station that is now used widely on Earth — everywhere from restaurants, to hospitals, to refrigerators — to remove ethylene, which hastens decay, as well as other particulates and pathogens.