Tech that fell from outer space

Space tech but not quite as we know it...

Space age gadgets that have become household tech names: T3 unveils the best gadgets that fell from outer space

For so long man has sought to reach beyond the stars, and in that summer of '69 we finally made that iconic step onto that hallowed moon surface. While it may have taken many a botched attempt to get there, by no means were those scheduled trips wasted ones.

As NASA continues to trial everything literally under the sun to explore more of the unknown, they have managed to stumble across a host of tech that now features in more familiar surroundings back here on Earth.

AeroPonics Accelerated Indoor Garden Gadget

Getting green fingers without leaving the confines of your living room can now be achieved courtesy of this indoor garden gadget. In-house veg growing was made possible after NASA teamed up with AgriHouse Inc back in 1997 to develop an aeroponic experiment for use on the Mir space station.

As a result, we now have a place to grow plants suspended in the air without the need for soil. As well as reducing water usage by 98 percent, the chances of spreading plant disease and infections commonly found in soil are removed leaving you free to start cultivating your batch of of cherry tomatoes.

Air cushioned trainers

Taking space helmet tech and turning it into added trainer comfort, back in the early 1980s former NASA engineer Frank Rudy helped conceive the first concept of the trainer that offered cushioning that would never go away.

Visualising a pair of kicks with hollow soles filled with shock-absorbing material to cushion the impact of running, Rudy's vision eventually led to the very first pair of Nike Air trainers.

Alter G 'Anti-gravity' treadmill

Far from a novelty fitness item you find advertised on television in the early hours of the morning the 'anti gravity' treadmill was designed with a unique pressure regulation that reduces any kind of gravitational pull on your muscles and tendons. Helping to reduce body weight from 0% to 80%, it has been noted for its rehabilitation benefits for athletes recovering from injuries.

A certain Paula Radcliffe sought out the NASA inspired "anti-gravity" treadmill in her bid to make it to the Beijing Olympics while US BMX Olympic bronze medalist Jill Kintner was back on her bike within six weeks whilst using the Alter G as part of her fitness regime.

Faster Formula 1 cars

When you need to make things a little faster what better way than to seek help from those who make the speediest thing to shoot into the sky? Carbon fibre, successfully used in the nose cone of the Space Shuttle, also saw its light and resistant properties inside the innards of Formula 1 racing cars. It can now also be seen in everything from laptops to tennis rackets.

Fogless ski glasses

Helping you to see things all that more clearly, anti-fog coating developed at the Johnson Space centre to help keep spacecraft windows clear before launch, can now be seen on deep-sea diving masks, fire protection helmets and everywhere else where a clearer vision is paramount.

The basic mix of the coating that is applied to the glass or plastic surface includes a liquid detergent, deionized water and an oxygen-compatible, fire-resistant oil.

Golf ball

Golf more than any other sport perhaps has a lot to thank space exploration for in raising the game and indeed the ball even higher into the air. Leading manufacturer Wilson has applied similar technology used to test the aerodynamics of the Space Shuttle's external fuel tanks.

Having thoroughly played around with the amount of dimples now featured on a golf ball, Wilson claims to make that ball fly with Happy Gilmore-like distance.

Hand-held vacuum cleaner

Black and Decker began their venture into space in the 60's, but it wasn't until 1971 when they made their dusbusting mark. Tasked with developing a self-contained portable drill used for extracting core sample below the lunar surfaces during the Apollo Moon Landings, the computer programme designed to carry out the job eventually led to the company laying birth to the battery-powered portable cleaner which now sucks up the crumbs infested around your computer.

Hang gliders

NASA's contribution to one of the original extreme sporting pastimes is an unprecedented one having formed the model for the more streamlined hang gliders we see floating around the skies today.

As NASA began testing various forms of wing to be used as a steerable recovery parachute for their Gemini space capsules, the wings' simplistic design, ease of construction, and the ability for slow flight was also seen as the perfect model for gliding enthusiasts everywhere.

Hydraulic cutters

In a telling contribution to a more serious part of everyday life, this cutting-edge technology in its most literal sense took inspiration from the power cartridges first used on the Space Shuttle.

Incorporating NASA pyrotechnical separation technology, the new hydraulic cutters used to free accident victims from wreckages, reduced the overall weight of previous life-saving equipment by 50 percent while reducing its cost by 70 percent.

LZR racer swimsuits

Translating space speed into the swimming pools of professional athletes, the iconic swimsuit was born after SpeedoUSA sought the help from NASA to help design a swimsuit that eliminated drag in the water.

One of NASA's Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate focuses was to examine the forces of vicious drag, a problem commonly associate with bodies moving through water. NASA's wind tunnel results helped Speedo to create the full body suit with ultrasonically wielded seams, that reduces drag, repels water and is extremely lightweight.

Athletes who have donned the LZR Racer have broken more than 100 World records in the past eighteen months.

Memory golf clubs

Helping baggy pants-wearing golfers to accelerate the golf ball with even greater control, NASA's experimentation at their Marshall Space Flight Center, helped to conceive the first set of Memory golf clubs.

Exploring the properties of metals that changed shape depending on temperature changes, the shape memory effect metal alloy was conceived. The high-damping memory alloy called Zeemet became the brains behind the new set of clubs.

The results of developing the super-elastic material led to the Nicklaus Golf Equipment Company in Florida creating a new line of golf clubs that was made available to both professional and amateur golfers.

Panoramic photography

Helping to alleviate a photographers' greatest gripe of having to leave out a part of a spectacular mountain scene out of their picture, cameras used to capture photography on Mars helped to introduce panoramic pictures here back on Earth.

Inspired by cameras used by Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, the Panoramic camera or Pancam, mounted on top of each rover could tilt a full 180 degrees and swivel 360 degrees, enabling the capture of a full scale view of the Martian landscape. The Gigapan, essentially an intelligent tripod was soon developed and found its way years later propped up on the now infamous Google Street View camera cars.

Personal storm warning systems

A Spacecraft's least best friend, lightning has fried many an onboard electronics system in past adventures, and through NASA's pursuit of more research into the habits of lightning, we can now also now steer clear from the thunderous bolts. The personal lightning detector, when pointed up at the clouds can detect the formation of lightning through subtle changes in light levels, suitably alleviating many golfers' concerns of being struck on a round of 18 holes.

Proporta iPad 2 screen protector

Keeping your beloved Apple tablet nice and hygienic, these Antibacterial Germ Resistant Advanced Screen Protectors use the same Steritouch technology used by NASA in the '60s to purify water, to guard against unwanted bugs.

Satellite television

Before Murdoch got his media mogul hands on Premier League football and all the best telly, worldwide television wasn't possible until the arrival of the world's first active communications satellite.

Initially designed to amplify a signal received from the ground and to relay it back to another ground station, The Telstar satellite launch was locked onto by an antenna situated in Andover, Maine. This enabled Americans on July 1st 1962 to see their nation's flag fluttering while the very first televised pictures were transmitted across the Atlantic Ocean to European television screens.

Ski boots

A skiing holiday spent in the Alps could have been a significantly colder ordeal had NASA not laid a hand in the ski boot design that made the winter sport pastime a considerably warmer experience.

Borrowing element circuitry that helped to keep Apollo astronaut warm or cool in the extreme temperatures of the Moon, the built-in rechargeable footwarming devices were eventually made available to anyone who fancied hurtling themselves down mountains of the white stuff.

Space blankets

More familiar to marathon and charity fun runners across the land, these instant bringers of heat were first developed by NASA in 1964. Made from a thin sheet of plastic that coated with a metallic reflecting agent, the combination of materials reflects the wearer's body heat back on to the body, which should create sufficient warmth before you can get to a heavily central heated building.

Stronger sunglasses

NASA have had a generous hand in helping our shades do their job that little bit better by keeping those incessant rays from giving us rather sore eyes.

Manufacturers such as Ray-Ban have been using the diamond-like carbon material used to protect astronaut's helmets from being scratched by space particles, while Adidas have incorporated the SPACE Lens technology that helps protect astronauts against infrared and ultraviolet light, currently sported by many a flamboyant professional athlete.

ThrustMaster joystick

Unsurprisingly, space adventures have contributed more to the gaming world than futuristic storylines, having helped to bring to life the ThrustMaster joystick.

Mirroring the design of the Rotational Hand Controller built for Johnson Space Center and Lockheed Martin, NASA used the ThrustMaster-designed sticks for Space Shuttle training simulations to practise runway touchdowns.

In 1997 ThrustMaster launched their NASA inspired joystick to the consumer delivering a digital controller featuring four programmable axes and six programmable buttons that has become a staple for 3D gamers everywhere.

Verilux TwiLight Blue Light Therapy Sleep System

One small step for sleep, one giant leap towards a fresher start to the day. The Verilux light therapy system was developed by NASA who spent time investigating the effects of exposure to different amounts of light.

It is now used to regulate sleep patterns and increase energy levels. The blue spectrum light signals the body to produce less Melatonin in the body which regulates your evening kip. Just 30 minutes per day is said to have you sleeping like an astro baby.


In the most logical and successful crossovers into everyday tech, the winglet or the vertical tip at the end of an aeroplane was initially developed by aeronautical engineer Dr. Richard Whitcomb at NASA's Langley Research Centre in the 1970s.

Found on all walks of aircraft life, the winglet improves fuel efficiency and cruising range greatly. Producing a degree of forward thrust, the drag normally associated with flight and the reduced wingtip drag incurred reduces fuel consumption while extending its range.