2015 edition of NASA’s annual Spinoff publication shows space-inspired tech advances
NASA has gained a reputation for developing technological advances for space exploration that, though various channels, make their way into commercial applications later on. Memory foam, freeze-dried food and keyhole surgery are among the better-known examples. The 2015 edition of NASA’s annual publication on the subject, Spinoff, has been made available and includes the latest stories of these NASA technology “spin-offs.”
According to NASA’s website, Spinoff “is the result of a U.S. Congressional mandate issued through the Space Act of 1958, whereby NASA was formed. More specifically, Section 203 of the Act called for dissemination of NASA research and development to the public.”
NASA documented their work to publicize advances gained through the U.S. space program in two black-and-white “Technology Utilization Reports,” one in 1973 and the other in 1974. As the reports were well-liked by Congress as well as NASA employees, the four-color print publication known as Spinoff was created and first published in 1976. Since then, according to NASA, about 1,800 stories have been published in Spinoff.
As Spinoff reports on commercialization that has already happened, the related publication NASA Tech Briefs provides information monthly to those working in science and technology who might be able to use their latest advances to create something new.
“The space agency enjoys a wide and varied technology portfolio that is unlike any other in existence,” said Daniel Lockney, NASA’s Technology Transfer program executive, in the introduction to this year’s publication. “NASA’s range of successful technology transfer is as diverse as our many missions.”
Developments in the 2015 issue are sorted into several categories – health and medicine, transportation, public safety, consumer goods, energy and environment, information technology and industrial productivity – with several stories under each one, adding up to 44 individual stories about recent technology advances that owe their existence to the space program in the United States.
Specifics featured in this year’s edition include shock absorbers used to brace buildings in earthquake-prone areas, cabin pressure monitors for aircraft, three-dimensional endoscopy, ionospheric mapping software, water mapping technology that can locate underground water in arid regions, and LEDs that promote more natural sleep-wake cycles.
The publication also includes a map showing where each item originated in the country, a “Spinoffs of Tomorrow” section that features 20 NASA technologies that are ready to be licensed, an article explaining NASA’s Technology Transfer Program, and a “by the numbers” page that attempts to quantify the value of NASA spin-offs in four categories: lives saved, jobs created, revenue generated and costs reduced.
“The game-changing technologies NASA develops to push the envelope of space exploration also improve our everyday lives,” said David Miller, NASA’s chief technologist, in the press release for the newest issue. “Spinoff 2015 is filled with stories that show there is more space in our lives than we think.”
Besides providing justification to Congress, the media and the general public for continued funding of NASA, Spinoff is also used to renew public interest in space exploration, give evidence of the varied applications for aerospace technology, honor modern American inventors and entrepreneurs and, according to NASA, “ensure global competitiveness and technological leadership by the United States.”
To see the whole 2015 issue, visit NASA Spinoff. NASA has also made it available for iPad with additional multimedia and interactive features.
Rae Botsford End is a freelance writer and editor whose primary work currently is writing technical white papers, contributing to SFI, and working on a speculative fiction novel that she hopes to have published soon. Rae wanted an opportunity to report on the various space-related events in and around Florida's Space Coast and approached SFI's founder about the possibility. Rae now covers an array of subjects for our growing website.