NASA and the Nation are embarking on an ambitious program of space exploration that builds on new technologies as well as proven capabilities as we expand humanity’s reach into the solar system. While reaching for new heights in space, NASA is creating new jobs right here on Earth—especially for the next generation of American scientists and engineers—by supporting cutting edge aeronautics and space technology innovations, research and development that will help fuel the Nation’s economy for years to come.
NASA provides America with unique capabilities simply because of how we ask questions about our universe. By taking humans to inhospitable places we learn more about how Earth sustains us, because we have to recreate that environment for our astronauts to survive. NASA solves difficult technical problems and thereby inspires Americans to invent technologies that make life better right here on Earth.
Investments in space and aeronautics technology stimulate the economy and contribute to the Nation’s global competitiveness through the creation of new products and services, new business and industries, and high quality, sustainable jobs. A technology-driven NASA will maintain the Nation’s aerospace community as a global technological leader for many years to come. NASA innovation also serves as an inspiration for young people to pursue science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education and career paths.
Whether we’re developing needed technologies for space exploration or advancing the Nation’s aeronautics capabilities, great ideas from NASA have a way of spreading, to everyone’s benefit. So, it should come as no surprise that the technologies powering NASA missions are used by pioneering individuals and organizations to create and improve products and services that make life better here on Earth. Those benefits include everything from life-saving medical devices to improved solar power, fuel-saving aircraft designs and enhanced manufacturing techniques.
Increasingly we are finding that NASA’s technological needs for space exploration overlap with our everyday needs. The partnerships we form to achieve NASA’s objectives often make an immediate economic impact, with technologies being commercialized as spinoffs.
Every spinoff is a tangible reminder of NASA’s commitment to investing in the future. The spinoffs featured in this book are inspiring examples of how NASA and its commercial partners have used space technology to solve everyday challenges—solutions that are being deployed in communities across America right now. These technologies are generating jobs, increasing productivity, creating revenue, cutting costs, and even saving lives. Spinoff 2012 presents 44 of these technologies, each with its own story. Here are just a few:
A NASA partnership to develop a multivitamin regimen for astronauts resulted in a range of supplements for enhancing nutrition on Earth. Consumers have reported reduced healthcare costs and the elimination of allergies thanks to this spinoff.
One company received funding from NASA’s SBIR program to investigate a superconductor material for future aircraft propulsion systems. The material is now helping enable lower cost MRI medical imaging devices. Thanks to its NASA partnership the company has created 16 jobs and has generated $3 million in revenue from its spinoff products.
A NASA partnership produced unique instruments for measuring ocean color—essential data for understanding our planet’s marine ecosystems. These innovations not only provide scientists with new tools for studying our oceans, but they also have resulted in more than $2 million in contracts for the partner company.
Building on a patented innovation originally designed to create a unique marker for Apollo 11’s mission to the Moon, a company has created silicon-based archiving technology that now preserves essential records in a format resistant to fire and water damage. The 4-year-old company has grown from 2 to 10 employees and has now opened an international office.
Set to launch in 2018, the James Webb Space Telescope is already yielding spinoffs in health and medicine and industrial productivity. Now innovations designed to perfect the telescope’s massive mirrors have been incorporated into technology for mapping the eye and diagnosing sight-threatening conditions.
These and the other spinoffs in this book show that yesterday’s investments in technology continue to repay the public today.
Pushing the boundaries of aeroscience and taking informed-risks, NASA and our Nation remain at the cutting edge. By making steady investments in technology, we will enable future human and robotic exploration of near-Earth asteroids, the Moon, and Mars just as current and past mission successes were supported by decades of vital technology investments.
A NASA focused on advancing technology helps ensure that high-tech jobs will be available for young people when they complete their studies. And in sponsoring this sort of research and development, it will do its part to encourage the next generation of aerospace engineers, ensuring that our Nation retains the critical capabilities in advanced technology that will ensure its economic competitiveness.