Space Update: The Byproducts of Space Technology Represent Some of the Most Innovative Technology Humanity Has Produced

NASA and the Russian space program have impacted our world well beyond giving us a glimpse of what it looks like from the Moon and low-Earth orbit. I came across a number of lists in the last few days and compiled a single one which I thought I would share with you. By all means this list is not complete but it does demonstrate the incredible technological innovations that have been gained from our 50+ years in space. Some on this list will probably surprise you. They did me.

So here goes. I have organized the items by industry and alphabetically:

Art, Archeology

  • Atomic oxygen technology to remove unwanted material from historic paintings
  • Multispectral imaging to read ancient Roman manuscripts found at Mt. Vesuvius

Aviation and Commercial Aerospace

  • 3D virtual navigation technology
  • Advanced chemical propulsion systems
  • Aircraft modeling programs
  • Ion propulsion systems
  • Fly-by-wire technology
  • Hang gliders
  • Navigation and guidance systems
  • Nuclear propulsion systems
  • Ramjets
  • Scanners for airport baggage
  • Scramjets
  • Simulation tools for aviation and aircraft design


  • ATM technology


  • Antiseptic cleaning technology for hospitals and operating rooms
  • Artifical heart pump technology
  • Bioreactors for culturing cells
  • Brainwave monitoring
  • Cardiac angiography
  • CAT scanners
  • Heart defibrillators
  • Kidney dialysis machines
  • Laser imaging spectrometer for biological research
  • Microwave scanners for breast cancer
  • MRI scanners
  • PET scanners
  • Portable x-ray technology
  • Remote medical monitoring
  • Remote Robotic surgery
  • Ventilation technology for critical care


  • Holographic testing of communications antennas
  • Internet
  • Low-noise receivers
  • Satellite communications
  • Satellite TV
  • Secure communications

Computing Technology

  • Analysis tools for massive amounts of scientific data
  • Image-processing software for crash-testing automobiles
  • JAVA Pathfinder programming language for business applications
  • Microprocessor and semiconductor technology
  • Video games


  • Advanced Power Converters
  • Battery Technology for Cordless Devices
  • Fuel cells
  • Fusion reactors
  • Photovoltaics


  • Food safety testing technology
  • Food supplements
  • Freeze-dried food
  • Sugar substitute low-calorie sweeteners
  • Thermo-stabilized foods
  • Water purification filter


  • Aerial reconnaissance and Earth resources mapping
  • Climate change studies
  • Monitoring of Earth-based storms such as hurricanes
  • Ozone depletion studies
  • Space objects and satellite monitoring

Materials Science and Manufacturing

  • Advanced composites including 20 different products for hydrocarbon and chemical processing, power generation, metal production, glass making, and baking
  • Athletic shoe manufacturing techniques
  • High-temperature coatings
  • HVAC filtering systems to reduce allergies and asthma
  • Memory foam
  • Nanotubes
  • New fabrics for space and application on Earth including materials for divers, swimmers, hazardous material workers, and others
  • Polyimide foams
  • Nanotubes
  • Teflon-coated fiberglassSafety and Emergency Response

Safety Technology

  • Breathing systems for firefighting
  • Hazardous gas sensors
  • High-pressure fire hose systems
  • Life raft technology for marine emergencies


  • Pay at the Pump satellite technology
  • Insulation barriers for autos


Memory foam mattresses are a byproduct of space research dating back to 1966 when NASA developed the material to absorb shock.                              Source: NASA


Len Rosen lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He is a researcher and writer who has a fascination with science and technology. He is married with a daughter who works in radio, and a miniature red poodle who is his daily companion on walks of discovery. More...


  • Philip J Reed

    It really is amazing how many different disciplines and mediums (media?) have benefited indirectly from the space program. I can safely say that most people have no idea of just how much of what we’d call “modern” civilization originated in such seemingly unrelated experiments. Thanks so much for this list…it puts the value of a space program into such obvious perspective, and I definitely didn’t know about all of these.

    They say you learn something every day. I guess I’m very lucky, because most days I learn far more than that.

    • lenrosen4

      I didn’t even mention in this list the programs, AI and technology built into the rovers on Mars, the Dextre robotic arm, the Deep Space network communications relays and how much of what is incorporated into these devices is finding its way into commercial applications.