At the dawn of the space age 50 years ago, President Dwight D. Eisenhower proclaimed that “many aspects of space and space technology . . . can be helpful to all people as the United States proceeds with its peaceful program in space science and exploration. Every person has the opportunity to share through understanding in the adventures which lie ahead.”
Since its founding in 1958, NASA’s exploration and research missions have benefited people around the world through the expansion of our civilization’s horizons, the acquisition of knowledge, and the development of new technologies and applications that provide amazing new advances in the quality of human life. The Agency also has endeavored, as President Eisenhower observed, to give every person the opportunity to share in its aeronautics and space adventures. NASA’s annual Spinoff publication is part of that effort.
Spinoff 2008 highlights NASA’s pursuit of its charter to “research, develop, verify and transfer advanced aeronautics, space, and related technologies.” Among the more noteworthy NASA-derived technologies featured in this publication are:
An advanced composite developed at NASA, now being used as insulation on thin metal wires connected to implantable cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) devices
A robotic arm and hand developed for International Space Station repair that has been adapted for use in a minimally invasive knee surgery procedure, in which its precision control makes it ideal for inserting a very small implant
A sensor originally designed for measuring fluid levels in landing gear that is now being used to measure fuel levels and detect water in the gasoline tanks of boat motors
A welding technique perfected at NASA that is reducing time and cost in manufacturing an array of products, as well as providing enhanced design flexibility in automotive, aerospace, structural, and fluid-handling applications
While these and scores of other collateral benefits of NASA missions have enriched human society in countless ways, the true promise of the space age is just beginning. As the visionary writer Arthur C. Clarke noted, “Many, and some of the most pressing, of our terrestrial problems can be solved only by going into space. Long before it was a vanishing commodity, the wilderness as the preservation of the world was proclaimed by Thoreau. In the new wilderness of the solar system may lie the future preservation of mankind.”
In this spirit, NASA is working, through research onboard the International Space Station, through robotic probes now scouting the planets, and through the development of America’s next generation of human spacecraft and launch systems, to prepare for future adventures beyond Earth, beginning with our return to the Moon by 2020.
NASA’s first 50 years have resulted in 12 men walking on the Moon, humanity’s first up-close images of and data from the planets and their moons, and truly astounding discoveries about the nature of the universe. As a fervent believer in human progress, propelled by the dreamers and doers among us, I truly believe the best is yet to come.