NASA’s technology is at the forefront of space exploration, but it can also be applied here on Earth – from improving cellular networks to saving lives in the pandemic.
Whether upgrading air traffic control software or honing the food safety practices that keep our dinner tables safe, NASA has worked for more than six decades to ensure its innovations benefit people on Earth. One of the agency’s most important benefits is the way investment in NASA pays dividends throughout the U.S. economy.
The latest edition of NASA’s Spinoff publication highlights dozens of companies that have benefited from cooperation with NASA – including several projects from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. This cooperation means investment in existing companies large and small; it eases the path for entrepreneurs to start new businesses; and it benefits the public as a whole through new jobs and cutting-edge products that improve daily life.
“Whether working to send the first woman and next man to the Moon or helping improve the technology that carries passengers from Portland, Maine, to Portland, Oregon, NASA innovators are constantly creating new technology,” said Jim Reuter, associate administrator of the agency’s Space Technology Mission Directorate in Washington. “Often these advances have wide-ranging benefits well beyond the need they were first imagined to meet. Telling the public that story is one way we fulfill our mission to find homes for the technology beyond the agency for maximum benefit.”
This year in Spinoff, you’ll learn more about innovations from NASA centers across the agency, including:
- How JPL has developed a new kind of technology used in spectrometers that can also be used to improve 5G cellular networks (page 7).
- How an array of new technologies aboard NASA’s Perseverance rover will help explore Mars but also enrich life on our own planet. For instance, a new kind of laser technology aboard the rover can be used on Earth to detect contaminants in pharmaceutical manufacturing, while a new kind of specialized drill bit is already assisting geologists in the field (page 24).
- How JPL roboticists have imitated the gecko’s gravity-defying grip to create a manufacturing robot that can grapple smooth objects with ease (page 51).
“Every spinoff story represents a product for sale, developed with NASA technology and expertise,” said Daniel Lockney, Technology Transfer program executive. “The American public benefits not just from the products themselves but also from the infusion of innovations and investment that spur economic development in the form of new ideas, new companies, and new jobs.”
In addition to these commercial success stories, this issue of Spinoff also delves into NASA’s response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. In particular, it highlights how the agency’s Technology Transfer program worked to ensure new or improved innovations – including new ventilators and sterilizers – made it into the hands of businesses and the public for the biggest impact (page 66). Among the success stories is the Ventilator Intervention Technology Accessible Locally, or VITAL-new high-pressure ventilator developed by NASA engineers at JPL and tailored to treat coronavirus patients.
Spinoff 2021 also features 20 NASA technologies that the Technology Transfer program has identified as promising future spinoffs, as well as information on how to license them or partner with NASA to further develop them for commercialization.
As NASA technology continues to blaze a path to the future, the methods of informing the public about their wide-ranging benefits also received an innovative makeover. NASA’s 2021 Spinoff publication features a modern, fresh design, making it easier than ever to learn how NASA technology and investments in the space program pay dividends for the U.S. economy and the public.
The new Spinoff storytelling approach centers on big-picture trends, such as the far-reaching impact of NASA’s efforts to keep water flowing on the International Space Station, as well as a curated selection of spinoff “capsules” that offer quick hits of cutting-edge technology making life better around the world.
Readers also can find these stories year-round on the reimagined NASA Spinoff website, updated frequently with new stories. The site allows readers to delve deeper into NASA’s economic impact in different parts of the United States through a searchable map that highlights spinoff successes created in each state.
“Transferring NASA technology beyond the space agency is part of our culture and one of our longest-standing missions,” said Reuter. “We’ve updated the look of the Spinoff publication, but the message is the same: We’re always working to ensure our innovations find the widest benefit, from space to you.”
Digital versions of the latest issue of Spinoff are available at:
For more information about NASA’s Technology Transfer program, visit:
News Media Contact
NASA Headquarters, Washington
Ian J. O’Neill
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
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