Originally installed on the Skylab space station in early 1970s to alert crew members of unexpected fumes, smoke detectors are now required by law in every U.S. residence to prevent house fires. Yeah, it’s not just there to beeping annoy you when the battery needs changing.
Recruited by NASA in 1971, Black & Decker constructed cordless, battery-powered instruments that allowed Apollo astronauts to collect lunar samples more easily during risky space walks. Thanks to that, we can all vacuum in those hard to reach corners.
Where do you go when you have a fluid dynamics problem? In 2004, swimwear retailer SpeedoUSA relied on NASA technology to create a new and improved swimsuit that practically takes friction out of the equation. The controversial, full-body suit was first sported in Feb. 2008, and not so surprisingly, a dozen world records were crushed by March. The fabric had been invented for space travel to eliminate chafing on space walks and during high-g-force situations.
A nickel and titanium "memory metal" known as Nitinol, originally developed by NASA for aerospace uses, is quickly replacing traditional steel dental braces. This new alloy does not crimp when bent and returns to its original shape as teeth shift! This reduces the amount of painful adjustments required through high school. (Physical adjustments that is, not emotional. Sorry kids, you’re going to have to work that out on your own.)
Skiing can be hazardous, especially when you can't see where you're going. NASA developed an anti-fogging solution to keep spacecraft windows cloudless before takeoff and upon reentry. The glass gets treated with a special water/detergent/oil combo to ensure clarity. And then they took care of your fancy goggles.
In an effort to identify newborn suns, NASA replaced standard mercury-filled thermometers with infrared-sensing cameras to detect tricky heat signatures. And now doctors use the same technology to take your temperature in your ear.
Apollo 7 astronauts traded their trusty pencils for Fisher Space Pens developed for their 1968 mission. While gravity supplies regular pens with ink flow, requiring a level writing surface, space pen cartridges are pressurized to provide ink at all times. And they work well in extreme temperatures (and have changed the dynamics of graduation gifts!).
NASA provided Apollo astronauts with revolutionary thermal boots and gloves in their spacesuits. With heat generated by embedded rechargeable batteries, fingers and toes remained nimble during crucial space walks (and now, of course, freezing Chicago commutes).
In order to shoot that famous footage we all saw recently, of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon, NASA had to create a camera that was small enough to ride on the leg of the lunar lander. The end result is cameras that previously cost a ton of money and only could be afforded by TV stations are now small and cheap enough for the average consumer to buy.
Thanks to NASA, the adding machine went the way of the saber-tooth tiger. As with the videocamera, electronic components had to be shrunk in order to fit in those tiny space ships and be able to perform multiple calculating tasks regarding trajectory, life support, fuel burn, and so on. IBM achieved its greatest success in 1966 for the two-man Gemini 11 flight, with a computer the size of a shoebox. Those same chips became the basis for pocket calculators and, later, personal computers.
This one's our favorite. Software that was created to handle multiple onboard systems -- that is, being able to recognize data coming from different sources and identifying those sources -- is the basis for the strip technology that can be found on most credit and debit cards.
Guitars manufactured with the same super-resilient graphite used in NASA's space shuttles are making airwaves these days. Besides providing musicians with enhanced tone and sturdier instruments, the lightweight material emits sound 11 times faster than wood.
Want to smell like a rose that bloomed on the Discovery shuttle for 10 days? Sent by International Flavors and Fragrance s in 1998 as part of an experiment to assess how weightlessness affects flora, scientists found that major chemical components of the rose had changed in zero gravity. The new, more-aromatic-than-roses-on-Earth scent has been infused in Shiseido perfume, Zen.
13 Everyday Products Originally Invented for Space Travel