Johnson Space Center

Famed heart surgeon Michael DeBakey
Johnson engineers collaborated with famed heart surgeon Dr. Michael DeBakey to develop the MicroMed DeBakey VAD.®

For more than 4 decades, the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center has been the leader in human spaceflight operations for NASA. Established as the Manned Spacecraft Center in 1961, the Center was renamed in honor of the late president in 1973. Located just outside of Houston, Texas, Johnson provides the planning and operation of the International Space Station (ISS) and Space Shuttle flights, and is the site of Mission Control. The operations at the Center include the development and integration of experiments for human spaceflight activities; the application of space technology and its supporting scientific engineering and medical research; the selection and training of astronauts; and the operations of human spaceflights.

Driven by the desire to expand the frontiers of space and knowledge and improve life here on Earth, Johnson set the pace for exploring, using, and enabling the development of space for human enterprise. As a result, Johnson achieved unprecedented accomplishments and delivered numerous benefits to America and the rest of the world through human exploration and development of space initiatives.

Johnson is the leading force of the ISS, which has grown from a 70-ton, efficiency apartment-sized foothold in orbit to a space laboratory of boundless capability. The assembled ISS provides the first laboratory complex where gravity, a fundamental force on Earth, can be controlled for extended periods. This ability to control gravity opens up unimaginable research possibilities that will enable discoveries that may benefit people around the globe.

Space-based technology has already enriched a wide range of human activities—how we communicate with one another, process information, travel, and study our planet's biosphere, to name a few. It has improved our quality of life by showing us new ways to treat our sick and injured, grow our food, and even correct our vision.

Rotary Cell Culture System grows cells to test new treatments
The Rotary Cell Culture System™ grows accurate, three-dimensional cells which researchers use to test new medical treatments.

Johnson supports a wide range of responsibilities, including technology evaluation, intellectual property, commercialization, patent licensing, joint development partnerships, Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs, grants, and Space Act Agreements. These functions enable the Center to more closely align its way of doing business with that of the private sector, and help identify the Agency's technology needs and leverage its resources.

Johnson continually strives to research and develop technology with meaningful real-life applications here on Earth, as well as in space. Johnson has contributed to major medical advances, including the development of a ventricular assist device called the MicroMed DeBakey VAD,® which assists people with congestive heart failure awaiting heart transplants.

Other advancements in cardiology that resulted from NASA-developed technology include the Digital Cardiac Imaging (DCI) System and the Heart Rate Monitor. The DCI system, designed by Philips Medical Systems International, significantly improves angioplasty with better real-time imaging and the ability to employ image enhancement techniques to bring out added detail. The Heart Rate Monitor, developed under a NASA grant by researchers at Texas Technical University, incorporates a new type of electrocardiographic electrode. The dry, reusable electrode works upon contact with the skin and is not affected by heat, cold, light, perspiration, or rough and oily skin.

Johnson's unvarying force of discovery also led to the development of a bioreactor to study the impact of microgravity on cellular and tissue growth on Earth and in space. NASA granted biotech startup Synthecon,TM Inc., an exclusive license to develop a rotating bioreactor, called the Rotary Cell Culture SystemTM (RCCS), that allows researchers to grow more accurate, three-dimensional cells they can then use to test new medical treatments without risking harm to their patients.

Spinoff firefighting tools first developed for astronauts
Many firefighting tools, such as protective clothing, are spinoffs from NASA-based technologies that were first developed for astronauts.

Scientists and clinicians worldwide are using the RCCS bioreactors for a variety of applications, such as growing normal human tissue in vitro for testing of therapeutic drugs or for growing replacement tissue such as liver, skin, and bone marrow. The RCCS bioreactor provides the research community with an excellent in vitro environment for culturing cells such as human tumor, viruses, and cells that produce valuable bio-products including proteins, enzymes, and hormones.

Research centers currently using the RCCS bioreactor include the Cell & Gene Therapy Institute in San Antonio, Texas; the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland; the U.S. Food and Drug Administration; and the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Maryland.

At Johnson, the goal is to ensure that safety and health are inherent in all that is undertaken. Since human spaceflight is a primary focus at the Center, it has concentrated on technologies that prove to be safe and beneficial to astronauts during space exploration. Firefighters, like astronauts, often brave dangerous and hostile environments protected mainly by the technology on their backs. Numerous technologies first developed for space exploration have proven beneficial for firefighting and prevention here on Earth, such as a portable firefighting module, protective clothing, flame-resistant fabrics, and the breathing apparatus worn by firefighters throughout the United States for protection from smoke inhalation injury.Another

Cool suits for Hypohidrotic Ectodermal Dysplasia
Thousands of children with disorders that affect the body's ability to cool itself have benefited from cool suits developed for the Hypohidrotic Ectodermal Dysplasia (HED) Foundation.

Johnson-developed technology that has a meaningful real-life application here on Earth is the ultraviolet (UV) blocking suit and cooling vest. Developed for the Hypohidrotic Ectodermal Dysplasia (HED) Foundation, the suits and vests use spacesuit technology to help improve the quality of life for children suffering from HED, Sun and Light Reaction Syndrome, Xeroderma Pigmentosum, and related disorders that affect the body's ability to cool itself. An 8-year-old boy from Magnolia, Texas, suffers from four skin diseases that kept him out of the sun and its potentially harmful UV radiation. However, that has all changed thanks to NASA and the HED Foundation. In April 2001, the boy received a special UV blocking suit that was developed from NASA space-based technology. The suit, which covers him from head to toe, allows him to go outside protected from harmful light. To date, thousands of children now enjoy their newfound outdoor freedom. More than 120 suits and about 3,000 cooling vest packs have been distributed through HED .

Taking technology a step further, Johnson collaborated with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to create Robonaut—a humanoid robot. The Robonaut project seeks to develop and demonstrate a robotic system that can function as an Extra Vehicular Activity astronaut assistant. The dexterous manipulation technology used in the Robonaut's hands might some day be used in other applications such as human prosthetic development.

Robonaut developed to function as an astronaut assistant Robonaut is a humanoid robot being developed to function as an astronaut assistant.The dexterous manipulation technology in its hands might one day be used in applications such as human prosthetic development.

A key to Johnson's technology transfer success is the Mid-Continent Technology Transfer Center. The center helps market NASA/Johnson technologies and aids in identifying commercial opportunities. Johnson also participates with Clear Lake Area Economic Development Foundation to attract space-related business and industry or open operations in the local area. The Technology Outreach Program at Johnson helps small business access and utilize NASA technologies in beneficial commercial applications. The program provides up to 40 hours of engineering assistance at no cost to a business seeking technical assistance, which helps to accelerate the transfer of technology to the marketplace.

It has been another exciting year for technology development at Johnson Space Center.

And, for the next 40 years, the Center will continue to focus on enhancing the quality of life in space, as well as on Earth through research partnerships and technical advancements.

The MicroMed DeBakey VAD® is a registered trademark of MicroMed Technology, Inc.
SyntheconTM is a trademark of Synthecon, Inc.
The Rotary Cell Culture SystemTM is a trademark of Synthecon, Inc.

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