Robert M. Lightfoot Jr.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
When most people consider NASA’s achievements, they think of destinations like the Moon, Mars, or the most distant galaxies in the universe. But you don’t have to look that far to appreciate the benefits of space exploration: commercialized NASA technology—known as NASA spinoffs—can be found in your phone, furniture, and car. They have improved nearly every semi-trailer truck on the road, airplane in the sky, and tractor working the fields.
Indeed, the spinoff benefits from NASA research in space and aeronautics are everywhere and continually accruing. Thanks to technology developed one or two decades ago, you use NASA innovations when you snap pictures or record video, feed formula to an infant, ride an elevator or escalator, or receive directions from GPS navigation. Meanwhile, the Space Agency continues to pursue a slate of ambitious missions that, in addition to their exciting scientific value, promise even more public-benefiting spinoffs now and in the future.
The James Webb Space Telescope, for example, launches next year to serve as the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope. Among other feats, Webb will peer further back in time than any instrument before it, showing the universe’s earliest structures in unprecedented detail. It may also assist in the search for potentially habitable exoplanets. During its years of development and preparation for space, the telescope has already generated several commercialized spinoff technologies—with more on the way, thanks to NASA’s efforts to transfer technology.
Perhaps the most fruitful areas of technology development and commercial spinoffs, though, are NASA’s efforts in human exploration. The Apollo, Shuttle, and International Space Station programs have given us many of the most ubiquitous commercialized NASA technologies, and I am looking forward to seeing how future missions beyond our planet will benefit society. As President Trump has said, “American footprints on distant worlds are not too big a dream.” NASA is working step by step to make this dream a reality, creating new technologies today that could take future astronauts back to the Moon, to Mars, and beyond. From rockets to lift crew and cargo to next-generation robotics, nanotechnology, and life support systems, tomorrow’s exploration systems are being developed here at the Space Agency.
NASA is making sure as many of these innovations as possible go beyond their original use to benefit the public. In the following pages, you can read about nearly 50 NASA spinoffs—some from missions taking place as recently as this year, such as our project to grow vegetables on the space station. Taken together, they provide a vivid picture of how the Nation’s investment in space and aeronautics exploration continues to make a positive impact on society.
I hope you enjoy reading Spinoff 2018 and share what you learn with your family, friends, and colleagues. As we like to say at NASA, there’s more space in your life than you think.