NASA's primary focus is the cosmos, but the space agency has a surprising and significant impact on everyday technologies we use on Earth.
NASA, in many ways, is America's research laboratory. Since 1976, the NASA publication Spinoff has profiled nearly 2,000 space technologies that have made their way -- in one way or another -- into the private sector, including baby formula, swimsuit designs, Dustbuster cleaners and protective firefighter gear.
In celebration of Spinoff’s 40th year, the agency took a look back at what it says are the top 40 technologies that have had the greatest impact on Earth. Below, NASA explains how 10 of these life-changing innovations came straight from the heavens.
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"Whether you take pictures and videos with a DSLR camera or a cell phone, or even capture action on the go with a device like a GoPro Hero, you’re using NASA technology
. The CMOS
active pixel sensor
in most digital image-capturing devices was invented when NASA needed to miniaturize cameras for interplanetary missions. It is also widely used in medical imaging and dental X-ray devices." -NASA
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"While developing life support for Mars missions, NASA-funded researchers discovered a natural source for an omega-3 fatty acid
previously found primarily in breast milk that plays a key role in infant development. The ingredient has since been added to more than 90 percent
of infant formula on the market and is helping babies worldwide develop healthy brains, eyes and hearts." -NASA
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"Looking to ensure the absolute safety of prepackaged foods for spaceflight, NASA partnered with the Pillsbury Company to create a new, systematic approach to quality control
. Now known as Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP), the method has become an industry standard
that benefits consumers worldwide by keeping food free from a wide range of potential chemical, physical and biological hazards." -NASA
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"Wind-tunnel testing at NASA’s Langley Research Center played a key role
in the development of Speedo’s LZR Racer swimsuit, proving which materials and seams best reduced drag as a swimmer cuts through the water. The swimsuit made a splash
during its Olympic debut in 2008, as nearly every medal winner and world-record breaker wore the suit. Full-body swimsuits, such as the original LZR Racer, have since been disallowed from international competitions, but a modified version of the suit continues to be popular among professional competitors." -NASA
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"An Apollo-era partnership with Black & Decker to build battery-operated tools for moon exploration and sample collection led to the development
of a line of consumer, medical and industrial hand-held cordless tools, including the popular Dustbuster cordless vacuum
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Surprised? There's plenty more where that came from.