The Unexpected Gifts of Space
by Garima Pandey
December 7, 2015

Space Out


Since times immemorial, there has been a huge hue and cry over the ostensibly large sums of money we spend on research and development in space technology with no apparent benefits to mankind. This, however, can’t be further away from the truth. We have seen, in the past five decades, that not only has the space industry itself grown in leaps and bounds, but it has also led to advancements in the vastly different fields of science that are associated with it.  


The innumerable means by which space technology directly affects us are no secret. It has become difficult to imagine a time when the weather was an unpredictable will of God, and we didn’t have GPS telling us to turn right in 500 meters. The field of space, however, is immensely interdisciplinary. Developing technologies to launch matter into orbit requires research and expertise in a wide spectrum of sciences. Spacecraft structures require study of materials, while spacecraft operations need state-of-the-art hardware and software development. Robotics and automation form the life and blood of all space systems which comprise of sophisticated electronics, sensitive and stable sensors, reliable communication links, and to run it all, efficient power and energy devices. Investing in space is investing in all of these branches, and many more, and the returns are disproportionately favourable, sometimes cropping up in surprisingly unexpected capacities.


The story of space research benefitting our everyday lives in unanticipated ways is inspiring. For instance, the need to reduce drag to make flight more energy efficient led to NASA’s research on more drag resistant materials. Speedo collaborated with NASA to then produce LZR Racer, a swimsuit made of swimwear fabric that reduced drag to such an appreciable extent, that it helped break more than 20 world records in swimming, the year of its release [1]. Another example of NASA’s drag-opposing research is the widespread use of winglets in airplanes. These little aerofoils jutting vertically upwards at the ends of wings are single-handedly responsible for improving fuel mileage efficiency by up to 7% [2].


Marshal Space Flight Centre very recently developed a fluid structure coupling technology to reduce vibrations called “thrust oscillations” during a rocket launch. This technology was then found to produce an order of a magnitude more reduction in vibrations on massive buildings than the current methods employed to stabilize buildings during earthquakes. In a related story, ORBITEC subsidiary HMA Fire, extrapolated its research in propulsion technology to an entirely unrelated field- that of fire-fighting. They use Ultra High Pressure, which was initially used in combustion chambers, to conversely, extinguish fire considerably faster, and with far less water [3].


There are numerous examples of how space research has enriched our lives, from assisting healthy living in the form of Artificial limbs, LED based pain-relief treatments or infrared ear thermometers to improving our environmental resources harnessing prowess by use of solar panels or efficient water purification devices, to just bettering our everyday lives with “memory foam” for our mattresses, or with portable cordless vacuum cleaners. The list is endless. It is important to know that a lot of this technology has been made available to us through Technology-Exchange Platforms from ESA and NASA. Their Business Incubation Centres facilitate this transfer of ideas to help these ground-breaking technologies make a tangible impact on human lives. This is one of the most important examples of the concept Technology Transfer making a valuable contribution to the betterment of the human race.


This is the first in a series of articles that SpaceBoard Radar will present to you about specific examples of Transfer of Technology and the invaluable contributions they have made to make living easier. It is about time we appreciated the role space science and technology play in our lives, and find the truth in William Shatner’s words, “There’s more Space in your lives than you think”.



1. "Space Age Swimsuit Reduces Drag, Breaks Records", Spinoff, 2008, http://spinoff.nasa.gov/Spinoff2008/ch_4.html
2. "NASA Dryden Technology Facts-Winglets", http://www.nasa.gov/centers/dryden/about/Organizations/Technology/Facts/TF-2004-15-DFRC.html
3. "High Pressure Systems Supress Power in Seconds", Spinoff, 2011, http://spinoff.nasa.gov/features/hma.html
Image Courtesy: http://www.nasa.gov/centers/langley/images/content/264076main_gateway2.jpg

Suggested articles
These articles may also interest you:

Welcome Back, Baby

"Welcome back, baby!" - Those were Elon Musk's words after the successful landing of the first stage of their Falcon 9 rocket. But what do these harmless sounding words really mean? Was there an actual human baby on board the rocket?

Official HE Space Board with green checkmark
Introducing: Official Organisation Boards on SpaceBoard

We are pleased to announce that from now on organisations have the possibility to have one or several official coordinators for their Board on the platform. Coordinators will be able to post updates on behalf of the organisation and directly interact with the community. They will also be able to edit the Organisation information.

The Masters of Space

As a first in this venture of ours to help prospective space students make the best decisions about their future in the space industry, we bring to you European master’s courses, offered under European Commission’s Erasmus+ programme, that we’re sure will not only satisfy your thirst for space-tech knowledge, but also take you places, both literally and figuratively.

New Community Features

We're excited to announce new community features on SpaceBoard: Relays, comments and starring!

Would you like to receive notifications of upcoming Radar articles? Subscribe now and stay up to date with the latest SpaceBoard publications.



emailSign up

If you're interested in becoming a Radar writer, get in touch at radar@spaceboard.eu.

SpaceBoard is on a mission to reinvent the way individuals and organisations from the space industry interact. Find out more.