NASA’s Tech Was Repurposed in Some Strange Ways This Year

By Ria Misra on at

NASA has a long history of seeing its technology turned around after spaceflight for some more earthbound purposes. (Enjoy that scratch-resistant coating on your glasses? Well, it began its life as an ‘80s-era spacecraft water filtration system.) What some people miss is that it’s still happening today.

Every year, NASA puts out what it calls a “spinoff report.” No. this is not a list of ideas for a series of zany, roommate comedies set aboard the ISS (although this is an excellent idea. Call me, NASA TV!). The spinoff report is actually a list of all the ways NASA’s tech has been repurposed into new products, ranging from the inevitable to the surprising to the bizarre.

Here are a few of highlights from this year’s version:

  • A turntable laser spectrometer that was part of the Mars rovers’ methane detection system was repurposed into a handheld gas leak detector.
  • “Space blanket” tech was used to make some ultra-durable laptop casings.
  • NASA robotics tech found its way into a “smart” coffeemaker, with more consistent temperatures.
  • Carbon dioxide capture research, used for analysing Martian results, was turned around into a carbon dioxide capture system for microbreweries to carbonate.
  • A NASA Langley ‘80s design for a never-carried-out “hypersonic plane” managed to make its way into a more current version of a wind turbine.
  • Originally designed to measure replacement parts for the Hubble telescope, a laser vision tool is now more pedestrianly used to sort packages.

You can check out the full list of products for 2016 right here.

Top image: Artist’s concept of Curiosity rover using its “chemcam” laser to analyze some Martian rocks / NASA JPL

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