NASA is present in our daily lives more than we know. The technology that makes Lasik possible, for example, comes from an autonomous rendezvous and docking software the space shuttle used when servicing satellites.The problem is, most people don’t realize how many daily technologies are rooted in NASA. But the agency has recruited Jeopardy host Alex Trebek to help spread the good word. In the form of a question, of course.
Spinoff technologies are found everywhere – in our homes, offices, and cities. Applications range better air purification systems to stronger ceramics used in dentistry. “NASA technologies work for us here on Earth, solving everyday problems – saving lives, creating jobs and making our lives better,” says NASA Chief Technologist Mason Peck.
Peck added that it was an honour to add Trebek to the roster of celebrity endorsers of spinoff technologies. Spinoff PSAs have been a part of NASA’s communications initiative since the 1980s. The United States Space Foundation Program launched a series of Presidential PSAs. Presidents Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, and Richard Nixon urging us to recognize the value of the space program in daily life, from satellite communication to creating advances in firefighting technology.
The current roster of PSA spokesmen includes Norah Jones and Will.I.Am, along with Mary J. Blige talking about the important role women can play in fields of science and technology.
The problem with these videos is that they’re hard to find, unless you know to look for them. Shouldn’t these things be plastered all over the internet so everyone learns about the real good NASA does for the rest of us Earth-bound humans? In fact, NASA has a pretty brilliant (if grade-school looking) interactive feature that takes you through a house and various city locations highlighting technologies we all know that are rooted in NASA. The liquid metal that turns into golf clubs came from NASA!
It’s certainly a step for the agency to recruit celebrities for its PSAs. And Trebek seems like a really good choice. The man in synonymous with odd but interesting factoids to most of the country. We’ve all seen his Wheat Thins commercial; you sort of expect him to provide the interesting backstory behind everyday objects.
Still, it would be nice to see the spinoff technologies presented with a greater celebration. NASA seems to be a bit of a punching bag; particularly since the end of the shuttle program has left astronauts depending on Russia for rides into space people see it as a money wasting organization. But it’s given us invisible braces, artificial hips, and ear thermometers.
NASA should throw a big spinoff technologies party every year, presenting the latest advances that will inevitably trickle down to better all of our lives and broadcast it on all major TV networks. Or, maybe a NASA spinoffs themed week on Jeopardy. But that might spiral into a horrible mockery of itself in the style of Saturday Night Live. It wouldn’t make for very good TV if every answer was something along the lines of “What is NASA?”