11. Wireless headsets
Along with two airline pilots who’d invented a prototype of a wireless headset, NASA built a light, hands-free communication system that would allow astronauts to communicate with teams on Earth. The technology was utilized in the Mercury and Apollo missions.
12. Airplane winglets
In the mid-1970s, as part of their Aircraft Energy Efficiency program, NASA began experimenting with winglets — vertical tips placed at the end of aircraft wings — to help reduce drag. Winglets are now ubiquitous on commercial jets and help increase fuel efficiency and reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
13. Invisible braces
After NASA and Ceradyne researchers discovered that polycrystalline alumina can protect radar equipment without blocking the radar’s signal as it tracks heat-seeking missiles, Unitek Corporation/3M teamed up with Ceradyne, using the material to invent invisible braces for teeth.
14. Freeze-dried foods
In preparation for the Apollo missions, NASA utilized a freeze-drying technique perfected by Nestlé to bring food to 20% of its original weight while managing to retain 98% of the food’s nutritional value.
15. Cellphone cameras
In the 1990s, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory invented a light, miniature imaging system that required little energy in order to take high-quality photographs from space. This technology has become standard in cellphone and computer cameras.