Maybe you think that all that the multi-billion dollar American space program managed to net us over the past half century was a headline every six months and fewer than 850 pounds of moon rocks. (Or, if you happen to be of the ‘government conspiracy theorist’ variety, perhaps you are convinced that even those ‘moon rocks’ actually originated out back of some roadside diner near Pahrump, Nevada.) Well, think again, Sherlock, as you settle into that leatherette family room lounger in front of your big plasma screen.
For if it weren’t for NASA, you might not be enjoying your cornucopia of uncounted cable channels this evening. It was NASA, after all, that led the charge toward global broadcasting in 1962, with the launch of Telstar, the very first Earth-orbiting satellite to relay live television images. Today, Telstar’s scores of upper-atmosphere descendants, circling in their multivariate geo-synchronous tracks, keep the entire world tuned in to the latest from — you guessed it — American Idol.
And, as you sit back for some mindless entertainment, you may be enjoying a tall, cool glass of drinking water, drawn through the filter of your refrigerator or tap. Then clink your glass to the Apollo program, for its development and refinement of those same ionizing filters for astronauts’ use. Should your spouse have to jump up during a commercial break to suck up all those stray popcorn hulls from the footstool or carpet, give a nod to NASA once again, for developing the batteries, software and related technology that keeps your hand-held cordless vacuum performing so admirably.
Now that you’ve settled back quite comfortably, you’re sure to appreciate the brisk cooling of your whole-house air conditioning. But it wouldn’t seem quite so cool without foil-faced insulation (a space program development, of course — but for heat shields).
If you should ever happen to be unlucky enough to be rushing from the second floor of your house as the smoke detector sounds an alarm, you might still be grateful that Honeywell developed the very first prototype smoke detectors in the 1970s to meet the demands of the NASA space program.
And the endless streams of invention and innovation that flow from the U.S. space program continue to enhance our lives and our economy in countless ways today. Photographic analysis that began with moon-mapping is now being used by cosmetics firms to insure the effectiveness of wrinkle creams. The aerodynamics of external spacecraft fuel tanks are applied to the manufacture of better golf balls. Coated and colored plastics developed for the helmets and visors of aeronauts and astronauts now grace virtually every snowboarder and beachgoer on the planet. Satellite photos help Earth-bound farmers figure the best time to sell their crops. Lightning protection systems developed for spacecraft also safeguard every major airliner in operation. Lightweight, durable, and extremely strong ‘moonsuit’ fabric now covers acres of stadiums and airline terminals the world over. So, “Thank You, NASA!”
And, let us not forget one of the very first and most popular of the space agency adjuncts to score big here on planet Earth: Tang, the fruit-flavored breakfast drink from General Foods. Though not actually created by or for NASA, Tang was adopted by the agency and used by John Glenn on one of the first Mercury space-flights in 1962 — ostensibly to cover the slightly unpleasant flavor of his spacecraft’s on-board water supply. After being used on subsequent Gemini flights as well, Tang got a big sales boost from its association with America’s adventurers in our upper atmosphere.