Benefits of the Space Program

The loss of NASA’s Shuttle Columbia was a tragic event, as were past losses such as the Challenger Shuttle and Apollo I.  Does this mean, as current media coverage suggests, that we should halt the Space Program?  Absolutely not!

Most Americans do not understand the benefits of NASA’s space program.  Their argument goes something like this:  “O.K., we’ve proven that we can leave Earth and orbit the globe.  How many times do we need to do this?  It’s too dangerous and costly!”

As a nation, we have a high percentage of people who are clueless of the benefits that the average American receives from our efforts to explore and understand the cosmos.  Within hours of the Space Shuttle Columbia’s tragic end, news channels were providing their own speculation and questions that can be summarized as follows:  “Of course, this tragedy obviously brings into question the entire Space Program and the beliefs of NASA promoters that we should continue this massive spending instead of using the funds on domestic problems such as feeding the poor.”  Does it?!  We think not, and we’re convinced many of our readers agree, as do other educated people across America and the globe.  The purpose of this article is to reinforce this position and to educate others who may be unaware of the windfall of benefits that touch nearly every aspect of our lives.  We must fully understand what we receive from our space-related efforts in order to continue.  Our efforts at exploration run deep throughout history.  It’s is what we do as evolving humans.  It is our desire to understand our planet and the Universe in which we live… and it’s a noble and necessary undertaking.

We cannot cover all the benefits in this article.  There are thousands of them.

Before we discuss the benefits of the space program, we must address its risks.  In NASA’s infancy, everyone knew that sitting on top of a mountain of rocket fuel, and lighting it, was very risky business.  Why is it that so many have come to believe that space missions are without risk?  The reason is that we’ve have been so successful at it in recent decades.  We’ve only lost two manned Shuttle spacecraft in over 100 attempts.  The media is also to blame because they don’t bother covering all the tremendous successes.  It’s old news.  They only sensationalize the disasters for ratings and advertising dollars.  Ironically, if it were the other way around, with only 2 successes out of 100 attempts, they would have probably have extensive coverage of the successes as they did in the Apollo days.

  1. The most accurate topographical map of the Earth.  This data is used to develop safer navigation techniques and better communication systems.
  2. Ultraviolet protection suits for people with rare intolerance to UV light, known xeroderma pigmentosum.
  3. Heart pump based on technology of space shuttle’s fuel pumps.  It’s two inches long, one inch in diameter, and weighs less than four ounces.
  4. Efficient autos and planes benefiting from NASA wind tunnel and aerodynamic expertise.
  5. New metal alloys based on research for the space station program.
  6. Thermal protection blankets used in everything from fire fighters suits to survival gear for cold environments.
  7. Robots and robotic software with wide-ranging uses that include auto-assembly plants, hazardous material handling, monitoring in dangerous environments, distribution and packaging facilities, etc.
  8. Lightweight composite materials that benefit cars, airplanes, camping gear, etc.
  9. Perfect protein crystals grown in zero gravity; used for more pure pharmaceutical drugs, foods and an assortment of other crystalline-based products including insulin for diabetes patients.
  10. Better understanding of the Earth and its environmental response to natural and human-induced variations such as air quality, climate, land use, food production as well as monitoring quality of our oceans and fresh water.
  11. Commercial space communication systems for personal phones, computers, video transmissions, global positioning satellite systems, etc.
  12. Improvements in energy use efficiency.
  13. More responsible use of air and water in private and commercial buildings.
  14. Automated maintenance functions for buildings and new lower-cost building construction techniques.
  15. Smoke detectors for homes and commercial buildings.
  16. Air purification systems used to by hospitals to provide pure oxygen for patients.
  17. High-bandwidth and optical communications systems.
  18. Technology for cordless tools such as drills, shrub trimmers and rechargeable flashlights.
  19. Growth of zeolite crystals that have the potential to reduce the cost of petroleum and to store new types of fuels like hydrogen, which is abundant and pollution-free.  This technology could be used in hydrogen-powered cars.
  20. Fire-fighting systems that battle blazes with a fine mist, rather than environmentally harmful chemicals.
  21. Sunglasses that block certain types of light – blue, violet, and ultraviolet – that could hurt the eyes. These sunglasses block the hazardous light, while allowing light that is good for vision to pass through the lens.
  22. Solar power collection.
  23. Air filtration systems that can kill all types of harmful bacteria – even anthrax — and remove allergens from the air with better than 90 percent efficiency.
  24. Ultralight solar concentrators that gather power from the Sun and efficiently convert it into electrical power.  Applications for this technology on Earth are limitless.
  25. Water purification methods using ions (an atom or group of atoms carrying a positive or negative electrical charge).  Used in water filtering systems to remove lead, chlorine, bad taste and odor.  Newer purification systems also remove contaminants such as perchlorate and nitrate.
  26. “Power Pads” to cushion a horse’s hooves, protecting against injuries and helping ease discomfort associated with brittle hooves or arthritis.
  27. Disposable diapers.
  28. Devices for collection and real-time analysis of blood, and other bodily fluids, without the need for centrifugation.  Huge potential for hospitals and for remote units to monitor individuals with health problems.
  29. Lighter artificial limbs that are virtually indestructible; based on foam insulation used to protect the Shuttle’s external fuel tank.
  30. Computer-aided tomography (CATScan) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) for imaging the body and its organs.
  31. Light-emitting diodes used in photodynamic therapy.  These diodes are used in a form of chemotherapy that kills cancerous tumors.
  32. Infrared sensors used in hand-held optical sensor thermometers.  These devices can measure temperature in the ear canal in two seconds or less.
  33. Devices used to diagnose and treat patients suffering head injury, stroke, chronic dizziness and disorders of the central nervous system.
  34. Compact laboratory instruments for hospitals and doctor offices that analyze blood in 30 seconds what once took 20 minutes.
  35. Land mine removal using flare device and leftover fuel donated from NASA.
  36. Technology which allows vehicles to transmit a signal back to a home base.  Used to track and reassign emergency and public works vehicles; also track vehicle operations such as taxis, armored cars and vehicles carrying hazardous cargo.  Now used to recover stolen vehicles.
  37. Cutters using small explosive charges used by emergency rescue personnel to quickly extract accident victims.
  38. Image-processing technology used remove defects due to image jitter, image rotation and image zoom in video sequences.  Used by law enforcement agencies to improve crime-solving videos; doctors in medical imaging; scientific applications and even home video cameras.
  39. Gas leak-detection system used by Ford in natural gas-powered car.
  40. Method of labeling products with invisible and virtually indestructible markings – used on electronic parts, pharmaceuticals and livestock — in fact it could be used on just about anything.
  41. Fire resistant foam used as thermal and acoustical insulation in aerospace, marine and industrial products.  Also used as for fire barriers, packaging and other applications requiring either high-temperature or very low-temperature insulation.  Used by Boeing, Lockheed-Martin, and Airbus for for major weight savings in aircraft.
  42. Hand-held camera which firefighters use to pinpoint the hotspots of wildfires.
  43. Safer soldering base for jewelers using torches in jewelry assembly.  Based on heat-shield tiles of shuttle instead of hazardous asbestos bases previously used.
  44. Quick-connect fasteners used by firefighters and nuclear power-plant repair technicians.
  45. Game-controlling joystick for computers and entertainment systems.
  46. Spray lube used for rust prevention; loosening corroded nuts; cleaning and lubricating guns and fishing reels; and lubricating and reducing engine friction.
  47. World-wide television broadcasts.
  48. Home insulation system which provides significant savings in home heating and cooling costs – uses technology of aluminum heat shield developed for Apollo spacecraft.
  49. Laser technology used in artery catheters to spot areas of blockage and fire short bursts of laser beams to vaporize them – a  “cool” laser providing thousands of patients with an alternative to heart bypass surgery.
  50. New charged coupled devices (CCDs) used in breast examinations (mammographies) which images breast tissue more clearly than conventional x-rays.  Doctors then use a specially designed needle to extract a tiny sample (instead of a scalpel) saving time, money and pain.
  51. “Smart” forceps made of composite material, with embedded fiber optics.  These obstetrical forceps allow doctors to measure the amount of pressure being applied to an infant’s head during delivery.
  52. Small pill-shaped transmitters  Used to monitor intestinal activity; blood pressure and temperature of infants still inside the womb; body functions of athletes and high-stress professionals such as firefighters and soldiers.
  53. Technology to quickly arrange and analyze human chromosomes and detect genetic abnormalities that could lead to disease in infants.
  54. Image processing software used in dermatology analysis to “decode” the shadow patterns and provided accurate heights and depths.
  55. Roofs based on moonsuits that look stiff, but are flexible and expand in heat and contract in cold.  Used as covering of malls, stadiums and new airports like Denver International.
  56. Padding in helmets, shin guards, chest protectors and aircraft seating.
  57. Golf balls with greater accuracy and distance.
  58. Lightning protection systems for aircraft.
  59. Windshear detection and warning system for aircraft.
  60. Traffic Alert and Collision Avoidance System (TACS) now used by virtually all passenger aircraft.
  61. Monitoring system which scans important documents at certain times and compares the differences between the images. The system detects changes in contrast, shape and other features. Used by museums and the National Archives to monitor historic documents and plan a way to stop any damage.
  62. Landsat imagery to discover unknown archeology sites; reveal ancient coastlines; manage the harvesting of fish in the world’s oceans; calculate how well crops are doing, etc.
  63. Robotic mother pigs which keep piglet formula (milk) cool until it is needed then heats and delivers the right amount at feeding time.
  64. Improved spray nozzles for crop dusters.
  65. New breathing system for firefighters made up of a face mask, frame and harness, warning device, and air bottle.  Weighs one-third less than old gear.
  66. Virtual reality simulators for medical operations, flight training, truck driving, etc.
  67. Hydroponics used by vegetable farmers to grow crops without soil.
  68. Fluorometer instrument used to monitor plankton in the world’s oceans.  Instrument measures amount of glow given off by plankton and other marine life that consume sunlight in their photosynthesis process.  Much of the world’s oxygen comes from plankton.
  69. Oil spill cleanup using beeswax microcapsules.  The beeswax balls absorb oil and keep water out.  Absorbed oil is digested by microorganism enzymes inside the ball.  When the balls get full of digested oil, they explode and release environmentally safe enzymes, carbon dioxide and water.
  70. Software to match and track whales.
  71. DirectTV.
  72. Satellite radio.
  73. Fire-Resistant Aircraft Seats.
  74. “Cool suit” which helps to improve the quality of life of multiple sclerosis patients.
  75. Pacemaker that can be programmed from outside the body.
  76. Instruments to measure bone loss and bone density, without penetrating the skin.
  77. Implant for delivering insulin to diabetics that provides more precise control of blood sugar levels and frees diabetics from the burden of daily insulin injections.
  78. Device for growing ovarian tumors so that tumors can be studied outside the body, without harm to the patient.
  79. THE LIST GOES ON AND ON!  Want to read about more benefits?  See our Related Links section below or go to Google and enter a search for “Benefits of the Space Program”.  You will be overwhelmed with information.