Bright Side

10+ Everyday Products We Wouldn’t Have If It Weren’t for Space Travel

It’s often said that “it doesn’t take a rocket scientist” to do some things. But did you know that there’s also a wealth of inventions we use daily that were actually designed by space scientists and engineers? Without these, we’d likely never be introduced to dustbusters or even computer mice if it weren’t for our wonder for the cosmos.

At Bright Side, we’ve collected the 13 most striking space innovations we use here on planet Earth.

1. Athletic shoes

If it weren’t for spacesuit construction technology, we wouldn’t enjoy comfortable athletic shoes as we know them today. The compression chamber midsole, which is well known in the Nike Air Max, is the same kind that’s used in space suits to retain shock absorption and stability.

2. LEDs

LED lights are safer, more resistant to breakage, and consume less electricity than normal light bulbs. Because of this, they’ve become a popular light source nowadays. Originally, the (red) LED light technology was used to grow plants in space.

3. Scratch-resistant lenses

The eyewear company, Foster-Grant, partnered with NASA in the ’80s to obtain a license for scratch-resistant coating technology used on astronauts’ space helmets. This allowed them to make glasses with the use of plastic (which was shatter-resistant) that would leave no scratches. The perfect combination!

4. Wireless headphones

You might be able to imagine that weightlessness and wires aren’t the best combination. To help astronauts to work hands-free without any hassle, advanced communication technology was developed where no cables were needed anymore. This is an invention we are now very grateful for, as the struggle with wires is just as real here on Earth.

5. Dustbusters

To extract core samples from the moon for examination, NASA partnered with The Black & Decker manufacturing company to develop and optimize a drill’s motor. This technology is now used in the popular hand-held miniature vacuum cleaner, the dustbuster.

6. Camera phones

The things that can be brought on a machine and launched into space are very limited in size and weight. That’s why, in the 90s, a team worked on the creation of very small, lightweight cameras. The colleagues of Eric Fossum called him an idiot when he was inventing a very specific technology for it. Despite the doubts of the team, he patented his idea which turned out to be a great decision as nowadays, most phones use this same technology.

7. Home insulation

Next time you’re all warm and cozy in your home, make sure to thank the space industry as the original invention of insulation was created to protect astronauts from high temperatures. Only later did the private sector adopt this same technology and apply it to energy conservation techniques used in modern homes.

8. The computer mouse

A NASA researcher was the first person to invent the computer mouse or “x-y position indicator for a display screen” as he called it in the patent. The goal was to make the interaction between computers and space flight easier. Little did he know that he would influence many lives on Earth with his invention years later when the first computers were sold commercially with a mouse.

9. The super soaker

When designing an improved heat pump, the creation sprang a leak. A burst of water shot across the room and Johnson immediately thought, “That would make a great squirt gun!” He patented the idea together with the Larami Corporation and started selling them in the early ’90s.

10. Foil blankets

The metallic sheet, or emergency blanket, is known on Earth as in insulator that can be used in extreme temperatures and is especially helpful for people that can’t cool down too fast. Originally, this lightweight insulator was developed to protect both the spacecraft and people in space.

11. Air purifying systems

Astronauts need a dependable source of food to survive during their long-term travels. Creating the same circulating air as we have on Earth in order to grow food was a big challenge for space engineers. The solution turned out to be a technology that we know today as air purifiers. This is now used commercially in hospitals, homes, and grocery stores that want to keep their products fresh for a longer time.

12. Memory foam

The cushioning used in the seats of spacecrafts needed to provide better protection during crash landings. They then developed memory foam which is now widespread commercially and is especially popular in mattresses and pillows.

13. Firefighter equipment

Astronauts have to deal with extreme temperatures when reentering the Earth’s atmosphere. That’s why spacesuits and space vehicles had to be equipped with suitable protection, leading to the development of flame-resistant textiles. In the ’70s, a line of clothes for firefighters was produced using the same fabrics to protect them from the heat they have to endure on the job.

Did you know it was rocket scientists that were inventing all these products? Which one was the most striking to you?