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Spinoff 2012

Charles F. Bolder, Jr., NASA Administrator
Charles F. Bolden, Jr.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration

NASA continues to be an investment in the future of American innovation. As a nation of explorers and trailblazers, we lead the world in space, achieving breakthroughs that make our challenging missions possible, all the while pushing the boundaries of frontiers in aviation, space travel, and science.

NASA’s renewed focus on technology development and the capabilities to reach higher in the future is yielding real dividends as we find new uses for exploration technology on our home planet. Every dollar spent on space exploration is spent here on Earth, and in the case of our spinoff technologies, those benefits continue to multiply. Entrepreneurs and researchers are continuously developing new ways to improve life around the world by building on our ongoing work to send humans to new destinations, launch scientific spacecraft for breathtaking discoveries, and improve our Nation’s air travel system.

At the Agency’s field centers across the Nation, NASA’s dedicated workforce and its many skilled contractors continue to push the envelope of what is possible. The Agency’s academic and industry partners are transforming these innovations to produce wide-ranging applications and inventions from the technologies we originally pursued with mission-specific objectives.

We are always delighted at the exponential value the American public and people around the world derive from our investment in exploration. As we uncover the secrets of the universe and raise the bar of our human potential, we are also making an impact on people’s daily lives.

Each year in Spinoff, we tell some of the amazing stories that have come about from NASA technologies being adapted for uses on Earth. Among the many incredible examples this year are:

  • An invisible coating, developed by a NASA Dual-Use Technology partner and tested at NASA facilities, that is capable of breaking down pollutants, eliminating odors, and inhibiting the buildup of grime. The technology’s many applications include enhancing the efficiency of solar cells, sanitizing air in the homes of those suffering from cystic fibrosis, and even transforming buildings and towering modern art sculptures into massive air purifiers.

  • A robot assistant now found in the halls of hospitals around the country, helping with everything from registering patients to logging vital signs. The robot has been dubbed “a Mars rover in a hospital” by one of its developers, who employed the expertise he gained working on Mars robotics for NASA to create the technology. The robot is not only easing the workload of hospital staff but also providing an economic return, creating 20 new jobs for its manufacturer.

  • A recreational trailer designed using the same principles that supplied comfortable living quarters for the crew of the International Space Station. The trailer’s creator used his experience as a NASA architect to create a unique, eco-friendly means for reconnecting with nature and revitalizing interest in our Nation’s parks.

  • A solar concentration technology that, for the same amount of silicon, can provide many times the power of conventional panels benefited from innovations developed through a NASA Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) partnership. The company founded to commercialize these NASA-derived sustainable energy installations now employs 30 workers, all with a mission to move renewable solar power into true mainstream use.

  • A worldwide search and rescue system was founded through NASA innovation. Enabled in part by satellite ground stations developed and constructed by a NASA partner, the true value of this spinoff is inestimable. To date, more than 30,000 lives have been saved, on average more than 6 a day, from the highly publicized 2010 rescue of teen sailor Abby Sunderland to the rescue of fishermen, hikers, and adventurers around the world.

From life-saving technologies to those that make our lives easier, the true value of NASA spinoff technologies is hard to calculate. What is obvious is that the value of our Nation’s charge to explore space and pursue the goals that may at first seem impossible is broader and deeper than we ever dared hope when first we look to the skies and dream about the road to tomorrow.

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