Battery-powered thermal boots used by skiers are adapted from designs developed to keep astronauts warm during the Apollo space programme. Rechargeable batteries are worn inside the wrist of a glove, or the sole of a ski boot, and heat is generated by a small electrical circuit.
21.Increased understanding of the beginning of life
In 1995 the Hubble Space Telescope beamed images of the “Pillars of Creation” – columnar clouds of gas found in the distant Eagle Nebula – back to Earth. As well as being some of the most impressive images of space, these pictures changed scientists’ understanding of the beginnings of life in the universe.
British marathon runner Paula Radcliffe has a stress fracture to her left leg, but aims to compete in the Beijing Olympics. She hopes to achieve this by training on a special “anti-gravity” treadmill developed by Nasa to help astronauts exercise in space. The machine operates in a high-pressure chamber which, in effect, cuts the weight of the user.
In 1957, Nasa began testing various forms of wing for its Gemini space capsules. The wings’ simplicity of design, ease of construction, along with their capability of slow flight and gentle landing characteristics, was picked up by hang-gliding enthusiasts. The hang glider the enthusiasts designed became the most successful in history and formed the basis for the more streamlined hang gliders used today.
Nitinol, an alloy used by orthodontists to wire teeth braces, was tested in satellites that needed to spring open after being folded into a rocket. Nitinol is durable and springs back into shape after bending.
Athletes can perform more strenuous activity without becoming overheated, thanks to new sportswear inspired by the cooling systems used in astronauts’ spacesuits. The clothes have packets of heat-absorbing gel positioned near parts of the body where the most heat is emitted.
Bypass surgery is not the only means for doctors to deal with a blockage in the coronary artery. Nowadays, precise lasers can be used to clean arteries with extraordinary accuracy, while not damaging the walls of blood vessels. The lasers were originally developed by Nasa to monitor gases in the atmosphere of the Earth.
27.Life support for patients
Project Mercury, the first US human spaceflight program, which ran from 1959 to 1963, developed sophisticated monitoring systems to track the physiological status of its astronauts. The same technology is used today in intensive care units and specialist heart units.
28.Medicinal light- emitting diodes
The light-emitting diode (LED) technology used in plant growth experiments on board the Space Shuttle has led to the development of hand-held LED units used for the temporary relief of muscle and joint pain, as well easing the symptoms of arthritis, stiffness, and muscle spasms. It is that hoped use of LED technology will spread to aid bone-marrow transplant patients in the near future.
Robotic technology has been used to create more dynamic artificial limbs. New foam technology – used as a shock absorber by Nasa – has brought about more natural-looking prostheses and has helped reduce wear and tear.