Feature

NASA at NASCAR
05.04.10
 

HOW NASA HELPS NASCAR

Fire-resistant material
A chemically treated fabric that won't burn or give off fumes was developed by NASA to protect astronauts. It's now used to make suits for race car drivers and pit crews.

Heat-resistant paint
Inorganic paint protects the hot parts of automobiles like exhaust systems, brake drums, firewalls, and engine manifolds. The paint was developed from NASA technology.

Gas gauges
A gas leak detection system developed to monitor the shuttle's hydrogen propulsion system is now being used by automakers to build natural gas powered cars.

Keeping cool
Materials from the space shuttle thermal protection system are used on race cars to protect drivers from the extreme heat generated by the engines. Without the insulation, it can reach 160 degrees inside some vehicles.

Engine lubricants
A plasma spray coating eliminates the need for liquid lubricants in certain engines. The NASA technology may lead to lighter, cheaper, and more efficient compact cars.

Better brakes
NASA's search for heat-tolerant space materials led to composite materials for brake linings that wear longer, cost less, and stand up under friction temperatures up to 650 degrees.

Cleaner cars
Spaceflight research on how and why things burn has helped scientists' efforts to find other fuels, like hydrogen, for engines and furnaces. The research has already begun to show up in improved jet engines, and could soon mean cleaner-burning cars.

Oil-saving seal
NASA developed sealing gaskets to stand up under the extreme conditions of spaceflight. They keep car engine oil clean, increasing the life of the vehicle.
 

Cozily positioned next to the piping hot kettle corn tent and across from the Panasonic HD 3D truck, NASA's new traveling exhibit "From Rockets to Race Cars" made its NASCAR debut last weekend at Richmond International Raceway.


From better brakes and safer tires, the exhibit features NASA's contributions to the racing world, a correlation that was news to a lot of people.

"I didn't realize how much NASA technology is related to NASCAR," said Scott Jungers of Richmond. "I'm really interested in that, and I think kids would be too."

A quarter-scale NASA Benefits Race Car and impressive Wheel Exhibit drew many families into the NASA tent on Friday afternoon before the Nationwide Series race the Bubba Burger 250. Staffers enthusiastically shared details of the NASA/NASCAR relationship to fans.

The Wheel Exhibit, which included a NASCAR tire, a Shuttle tire, replica of a Lunar Rover tire, a Lunar Tweel and a Spring Tire, was a major hit. Race fans took pictures in front of them and learned that NASA technology has resulted in stronger, safer tires for drivers.

"Where else can you see a Shuttle tire up close?" remarked one man.

Elementary school student Brianna Menegon from Pittsburgh enjoyed learning about space food and how technology used to make astronaut suits heat resistant is now used to make suits for racecar drivers. Having just completed a book report on Neil Armstrong for school, her parents found the NASA tent to be "right on time."

"She likes science a lot," said her mom.

Diana Zabetakis, an elementary school principal from Maryland, couldn't get over how "cool" it was seeing NASA at NASCAR. She and her two sons were waiting in line to play NASA Spin the Wheel game where they could win prizes for answering questions about space correctly.

"As an educator and mother, I think this kind of exposure is great for my guys," Zabetakis said. "They can see the display here and then it also gives us something to talk about when we get home."

"From Rockets to Race Cars" will continue along the racing circuit making stops at Charlotte Motor Speedway, May 29-30 and at the Kentucky Speedway, June 11-12.

 
 
Amy Johnson
NASA Langley Research Center