Special Report

30 NASA Inventions We Use Everyday

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11. Wireless headsets

Along with two airline pilots who’d invented a prototype of a wireless headset, NASA built a light, hands-free communication system that would allow astronauts to communicate with teams on Earth. The technology was utilized in the Mercury and Apollo missions.

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12. Airplane winglets

In the mid-1970s, as part of their Aircraft Energy Efficiency program, NASA began experimenting with winglets — vertical tips placed at the end of aircraft wings — to help reduce drag. Winglets are now ubiquitous on commercial jets and help increase fuel efficiency and reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

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13. Invisible braces

After NASA and Ceradyne researchers discovered that polycrystalline alumina can protect radar equipment without blocking the radar’s signal as it tracks heat-seeking missiles, Unitek Corporation/3M teamed up with Ceradyne, using the material to invent invisible braces for teeth.

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14. Freeze-dried foods

In preparation for the Apollo missions, NASA utilized a freeze-drying technique perfected by Nestlé to bring food to 20% of its original weight while managing to retain 98% of the food’s nutritional value.

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15. Cellphone cameras

In the 1990s, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory invented a light, miniature imaging system that required little energy in order to take high-quality photographs from space. This technology has become standard in cellphone and computer cameras.