Chief Techologist, Dr. Robert D. Braun
Dr. Robert D. Braun
Chief Techologist

National Aeronautics and Space Administration

As a research and development agency, NASA plays a vital role in America’s innovation engine and, as such, its future economic prosperity and security. The President’s FY 2011 budget request for NASA is part of a larger national research and development effort in science, technology, and innovation that will lead to new products and services, new business and industries, and high-quality, sustainable jobs. NASA’s new technology and innovation investments are required to enable new approaches to NASA’s current aeronautics, science, and exploration missions and allow the Agency to pursue entirely new missions including sending humans into deep space to compelling destinations such as near-Earth asteroids and Mars. In tandem with these technology investments, NASA will continue to ensure an American presence in space aboard the International Space Station and empower a robust and competitive American commercial space program.

NASA’s new Space Technology programs will foster cutting-edge, competitively sponsored research and technology development efforts in academia, industry, the NASA Centers, and other government entities, rebuilding our core competencies and allowing innovative technological solutions to today’s challenges. These new space technology investments will create a more vital and productive aerospace industry and address broader national needs, such as energy, health and wellness, and national security.

NASA’s technology, expertise, and facilities are already a valuable national asset with a long history of providing innovation and inspiration for the good of the American public. Since its first days, NASA has nurtured partnerships with the private sector to facilitate the transfer of its technologies to improve the lives of Americans and people around the world.

Each year since 1976, NASA has chronicled some of the best examples of this successful technology transfer in its premier journal, Spinoff. The remarkable outcomes of these partnerships have reached throughout the economy and around the globe, as the resulting commercial products contributed to the development of services and technologies in the fields of health and medicine, transportation, public safety, consumer goods, environmental resources, computer technology, and industry.

This year is no exception, as this latest edition of Spinoff reveals a wide range of public benefits. In the following pages, you will find these noteworthy examples and more:

  • Light sensors invented by NASA researchers provide imaging capabilities for digital cameras, Web cameras, automotive cameras, and one of every three cell phone cameras on the planet.

  • NASA funding supported the development of a whole aircraft parachute system that is now standard equipment on many of the world’s top-selling aircraft and has saved 246 lives to date.

  • Fuel cell technology originally devised for generating oxygen and fuel on Mars has been adapted to generate clean energy on Earth, providing an environmentally friendly, scalable power source for a host of Fortune 500 businesses.

  • Drag-reducing winglet technology—advanced and proven by NASA researchers—now features on aircraft around the world, saving the airline industry billions of dollars in fuel costs and significantly reducing carbon emissions.

  • Bacteria isolated for use in water-purifying technology for the International Space Station is providing a safe, environmentally sound method for oil spill cleanup and for cleansing municipal and industrial wastewater.

These are just a few of the positive stories of NASA technologies leaving the laboratories to improve life on Earth and just some of the over 1,700 examples that have been recorded in Spinoff over the years.

NASA’s new technology investments represent an important aspect of our overall national investment in research, technology, and innovation, designed to stimulate our economy, create new inventions and capabilities, and increase our global economic competitiveness. We predict that as the Agency continues to push technological boundaries and follow in its proud tradition of doing things that have never been done before—and sometimes things that had never been thought possible—it will carry on producing new and exciting technologies that will, no doubt, further improve our lives back here on Earth.

While NASA’s research does indeed provide valuable scientific outcomes and clear public benefits, there is perhaps another “spinoff” even more lucrative than the benefits we see from these industry partnerships. As President Obama noted in an address to the National Academy of Sciences, in which he invoked the many tangible benefits of the Nation’s investment in the Apollo Program, “The enormous investment of that era—in science and technology, in education and research funding—produced a great outpouring of curiosity and creativity, the benefits of which have been incalculable.”

NASA’s investment in new technologies is also an investment in our country’s future. Today’s children will be inspired by NASA’s bold new vision, and our new technology and innovation emphasis will create a pipeline of young engineers, scientists, and mathematicians to serve our future national needs, inspiring wonder in a new generation, sparking passions, and launching careers.

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