Special Report

30 NASA Inventions We Still Use Everyday

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21. Memory foam

Memory foam was originally invented as a pad for astronaut seats that would mold to their bodies during the high forces of takeoff and landing, then return to a neutral state. This eliminated the need to customize seats to individual astronauts’ bodies.

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22. Resistance-based workout machines

Because traditional weight-lifting machines don’t work in zero-gravity, NASA sought a way for astronauts to maintain muscle tone using resistance-based workout equipment. Funding the work Paul Francis, inventor of a resistance-based weight-lifting system called SpiraFlex, NASA got what they were looking for and Francis’s work was later incorporated into the Bowflex Revolution, a quieter, safer, more compact home gym than the traditional weight and cable machines.

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23. Insulation

Seeking heat shields for Apollo spacecrafts and spacesuits, NASA and their contractors began experimenting with thin, lightweight, reflective radiant barriers. Their advances in radiant barrier insulation have been applied to commercial products such as camping gear, building insulation, and clothing.

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24. Infrared ear thermometers

Infrared ear thermometers, which allow for instant temperature capture without the risk of cross-infection, utilize the same technology developed for assessing the temperature of distant planets.

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25. Ice-resistant airplanes

Ice is a real threat for shuttles in space, and NASA has devised multiple electronic solutions to prevent ice formation on spacecraft exteriors. Some of these are now used on commercial aircraft.

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