Times Change, but Spinoffs Remain
Calculating the Benefits We Have from Space
We live in the age of technology and it’s absolutely wonderful. But what we all take for granted is how we got this great technology. My simple opinion is that a major contributor is “spinoffs” from our space program. When we think of space exploration we think of Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Shuttle, ISS, and many unmanned space programs. Some would say these launches are a beautiful sight but a waste of taxpayers’ money. Money that could be spent on Earth – but that thinking is shortsighted!
There are more than 6,000 spinoffs that directly affect our everyday lives. The categories are many, including: health and medicine, transportation, public safety, home and recreation, environment, agriculture, and computer technology. NASA has contributed heavily, since its inception in 1958, by transferring technology to the private sector immediately and without the inherent delays of patent approval. For instance…
Health & Medicine
Starting with health and medicine here are some of the amazing spinoffs: advanced pacemakers that are smaller, with longer lasting batteries; artificial limb technology, which allows amputees to control fingers, knees and feet through microchips; advanced CAT scans and MRI machines that allow medical teams to see greater detail, and thereby detect and treat diseases faster and with higher cure rates; digital imaging breast biopsy system and Neuro-spinal screening to evaluate nerve function for accident victims; a non-invasive test to detect cardiovascular disease, which allows doctors to diagnosis heart disease prior to major open-heart surgery; insulin pumps that can be worn on the waistband and monitor and inject insulin automatically as the body needs it; and food supplements that reduce fat content.
Transportation, Public Safety & Environment
Spinoffs for transportation and public safety number in the thousands. Here are a few that affect our everyday lives: safety grooving on our nation’s highways; automotive insulation to reduce heat and weight; corrosion resistant paint; improved firefighters’ breathing equipment; and improved radial tires. The environmental advances include: advanced systems which map, monitor, and manage earth resources; harnessing solar energy; band wind shear prediction; and other significant weather prediction advances.
Aircraft safety has also benefited from space spinoffs, for example: advanced airfoils, which boost helicopter performance; anti-icing, collision avoidance systems; comprehensive software that eases Air Traffic Management; and commercial aircraft vision system for darkness and weather.
There are other spinoffs we use everyday like cell phones; satellite and cable TV; and computers. As well as spinoffs that have opened new worlds, like space suit technologies to protect deep sea divers. It also intersects our recreational fun and hobbies with improvements in power and dependability in outboard motors, cordless power tools, and advances in home gardening.
The People Factor
NASA spinoffs also include people! New businesses have been attracted to Brevard County because of our skilled and educated labor force. These new companies are coming here to capitalize on our great people.
America is entering a changing world of space and we in Brevard County can be thankful for Space Florida, the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast (EDC), our county commissioners, state and local officials, and four chambers of commerce that have not only embraced the change, but moved forward to attract and bring new space business to our county.
By working together and using our resources and incentives, companies like Embraer, Bertram Yachts, Space X, AAR and many more have decided to focus on our “spinoffs” and locate here. We also can’t forget the companies/military partners that continue to prosper in this area.
60 Minutes got it wrong! Brevard County and our space program are thriving and moving forward… but not without benefiting from past successes that the space program has passed on. Without our space program we would never be where we are today.
As you finish reading this article, stop and evaluate your day – how many times did you use space age technology today? I bet you stop counting before 9 a.m. because the number is just too great.
Melissa Stains is the president and CEO of the Cocoa Beach Regional Chamber of Commerce