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Four NASA Game Changers This National Space Day

This year, May 3 is National Space Day, created 22 years ago as a way to underscore the importance of teaching science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) to youngsters.

As it turns out, the cosmos is a great subject to capture a child’s imagination and encourage learning. And so, too, are all the marvelous inventions our scientists have come up with in the interest of exploring the regions beyond our planet.

As a tribute to National Space Day and childhood education, here’s a look at some of the everyday items that have come as a result of NASA’s cosmic endeavors.

Digital photography. In the 1960s, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory engineer Eugene Lally was the first to conceive of technology able to produce a digital image. His idea was to use a mosaic of light sensors to gather tiny bits of data to produce a single still image. The Eastman Kodac Company later expanded on this technology, producing the first actual digital camera in 1975. In the 1990s, NASA again played a key role in digital photography when engineers developed smaller image sensors that helped reduce the overall size of digital cameras—like the ones in your cell phone.

Baby formula. Most of today’s baby formula comes enriched with the essential fatty acids DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and ARA (arachidonic acid). These occur naturally in breast milk, and experts believe they’re important to a baby’s developing eyes and brain. In the early 1980s, NASA scientists—while seeking ways to produce oxygen in space—discovered that some types of algae produce these same fatty acids. And within a few years, the discovery was put to use in baby formula and some alternative milk products.

MRI and CT scans. For years, MRI machines and CT scans have helped doctors see inside of our bodies. And although these devices weren’t invented by NASA scientists, the technology behind them was. In the late 1960s, NASA used digital signal processing to take detailed footage and images of the moon. NASA was the first to do it, and the technology gave us the sharpest pictures possible for the times. The techniques were later adapted to x-ray technology used in medicine.

Home insulation. Since the 1970s, building product makers have been using NASA’s radiant barrier technology in insulation used for homes and businesses. Made from a thin polymer film coated in aluminum, radiant barrier helps protect astronauts in space from heat and cold—reflecting about 95 percent of it away from their space suits and vessels. And it works the same in your home. It helps block solar radiation, while also keeping the cool air (or heat) that you want inside. Radiant barrier can make a huge difference in your heating and cooling bills.

Just like the folks who created National Space Day, we know how important childhood education is to the future of the world. That’s why we take part in and support so many different school projects and programs in the communities we serve. From school robotics programs and educational grants to food and school supply drives, we’re hoping to make a difference. From all of us here at Infinite Energy, happy National Space Day.

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