The Apollo lunar missions resulted in what I believe to be some of the giant leaps in technology over the last century. You might be surprised to find out all the everyday things that came out of landing man on the moon.
Gel pens, my favorite writing utensil, came out of the space program. , The astronauts needed a way of recording the events during the mission that would work in low gravity. The gel pens allowed the ink to flow in the low gravity of space. These pens are capable of writing on the ceiling for a reasonable period of time. Prior to the space program, pens only worked from gravity pulling the ink against the ball.
The materials used in the “Moon Boots” revolutionized athletic footwear. They improved shock absorption, provided more stability, and provided better motion control. Al Gross substituted DuPont’s Hytrel plastic for the foam used in the shoe’s midsole to eliminate the cushioning loss caused by body weight in the shoe. He also used the “blow-molding” techniques used to manufacture the space suits to improve the techniques used to manufacture shoes.
The fabrics developed for the spacesuits was also used to create fabric roofs, like the one in Houston’s Reliant Stadium. The fabric is stronger and lighter than steel and only weighs less than five ounces per square foot. It is translucent, flexible and reflective, causing a reduction in lighting, cooling and maintenance costs. This fabric is also used in temporary military structures. The fabric lasts up to 20-years and is a cheap alternative to steel and concrete structures. You will see many of these dome-like structures in use by Missouri Department of Transportation to house the rock salt mixture used to treat our winter roads.
NASA, along with General Motors, developed technology for moving heavy equipment on cushions of air. Rolair Systems, Inc. commercialized on the technology and it is used today in stadiums around the world to move large equipment, stages, and even stadium seating. Hawaii’s Aloha Stadium uses this technology to rearrange the stadium, moving entire 7,000 seat sections.
After the 1967 Apollo fire disaster, NASA needed to find ways to protect the flight crew in the event of a fire. Monsanto Company developed a chemically treated fire-proof fabric called Durette. Firemen wear the same fabric and utilize the same air tanks to fight fires on Earth.
Along with these high-tech devices designed to protect and entertain, there were also many things invented to just make life easier such as cordless tools, Chlorine-free pools, heart monitors, Black & Decker’s Dustbuster, quartz clocks and watches, and precision medical syringes. The technologies developed by NASA during the Apollo missions crossed all boundaries of our lives.
The most surprising area to see an impact from the Apollo missions to me is agriculture. Many do not know that the NASA missions helped to develop feeding technologies for pig farmers. Roughly 15-25 percent of piglets die before they are weaned, usually as a result of accidental crushing by the sow. Farmatic, Inc. used NASA miniature electronic heaters to warm the body of a synthetic sow. This synthetic sow can be used to replace the mother in events of over-sized litters, rejected piglets or physical disorders.