Educator Features

NASA Benefits: At Home
NASA TV: An Olympic Gold Medalist

Photograph of a satellite
Every two years, television broadcasts allow the whole world to watch the Olympic Games. These TV signals are relayed by satellites in orbit above the Earth. Even if the games are held in Seoul, South Korea, we flip on the TV and expect the same quality as if the broadcast came from Atlanta, Georgia, in the United States.

Image to right: Telstar helped make television signals available in different countries around the world. Credit: NASA

Today we take world-wide TV coverage for granted. Over 30 years ago, though, people in the United States and Europe were very excited about a little satellite called Telstar I. It was launched by NASA on July 10, 1962. Later that same day, live television pictures originating in the United States were relayed via Telstar and received in France.

Beginning in the late 1950s, NASA pioneered the technology that made TV satellite broadcasts an every-day part of our lives.

NASA satellites relayed the first international coverage of the Olympic Games. The 1964 games were broadcast from Tokyo to the U.S. and Europe via Relay I and Syncom 3.

Other NASA TV broadcast milestones included a demonstration in India in 1975. TV signals were relayed through one of NASA's Applications Technology Satellites (ATS) to 10-foot antennas installed in 2000 villages. The Communications Technology Satellite (CTS) was launched on January 17, 1976. CTS transmitted with more power than earlier satellites. This allowed the use of smaller and cheaper ground stations, thus paving the way for direct broadcast television.

NASA worked with many companies to develop satellite TV technology, including Bell Telephone Laboratories, AT&T, RCA and Hughes. But it was America's bold space program that pioneered the satellite TV technology that now reaches practically every home in America, and much of the world.

So, the next time you watch a satellite broadcast from London, Moscow, Tel Aviv or Peking, give NASA a big 10 on your scorecard. If there were an Olympics for satellite TV technology, NASA would win a gold medal!

Cordless Power Tools and Appliances

Photograph of a power drill being used
Do you use a cordless drill or shrub trimmer? How about a Dustbuster®? Did you know that the technology that made these products possible came from NASA's Apollo program?

Image to left: Cordless drills were created by NASA to help astronauts collect core samples. Credit: NASA

Astronauts needed a way to drill down beneath the moon's surface, as much as 10 feet, to collect core samples. Like everything else that went to the moon, this drill had to be small, lightweight and battery-powered. To develop the drill, NASA chose a company that has since become well known for its cordless products: Black and Decker.

A key technological advance made the battery-powered drill possible -- a computer program was used to design the drill's motor to use as little power as possible. That computer program, along with the knowledge and experience gained in developing the drill, provided a strong technology base for developing battery powered tools and appliances.

Black and Decker now sells approximately $400 million dollars worth of cordless, rechargeable products per year.

Smoke Detector

Photograph of firefighters fighting a fire
Hopefully you've never been awakened in the middle of the night by a smoke detector. It would be bad enough in your home, but imagine having a fire on your space ship!

Image to right: Smoke detectors used on Skylab now help keep us safe in our homes. Credit: NASA

In the 1970's, NASA needed a smoke and fire detector for Skylab, America's first space station. Honeywell, Inc. developed the unit for NASA. Smoke detectors are now required by law to be placed in all new homes. They are credited with saving countless lives.

So, the next time you're awakened by a smoke alarm, remember, it could be worse. Try running outside a space ship in your pajamas!

Clean Water for the Home

Photograph of a water filter under the kitchen sink
Many families are buying water filters for their homes. One model is the HOME Guardian filter made by Western Water International (WWI) of Forestville, Maryland. The filter is installed under the sink or in the "dead space" between the sink and the wall.

Image to left: Water filters created by NASA help make water taste better and safer to drink. Credit: NASA

This filter uses technology developed by WWI, combined with NASA technology. During the Apollo program, NASA developed a system to sterilize the astronauts' drinking water. This method included the use of ions (an atom or group of atoms carrying a positive or negative electrical charge) as part of the water filtering system.

The H2OME removes lead, chlorine, bad taste, odor, and other bad stuff. WWI also sells filter units that can handle large volumes of water. These are used in large buildings, and even by entire towns in countries where the water is contaminated.

Home Insulation

Photograph of a house with insulation
Have you ever scratched your head wondering why your electric bill is so high? Even after you've installed rolls of insulation, or had insulation blown into your attic, or caulked your windows?

Image to right: Insulation has benefits for both spacecraft and your power bill. Credit: NASA

Until recently, home insulation has not been a very exact science. But would you believe there's now a company that will install insulation then guarantee that your house will only use a specified number of kilowatt hours per year?

It's true, thanks to an aluminum heat shield developed for Apollo spacecraft. The heat shield was designed as a barrier to keep heat or cold in or out of the spacecraft that took our astronauts to the moon.

The Guaranteed Watts Saver System™ is marketed by Guaranteed Watts Saver Systems, Inc. of Charlotte, North Carolina, and Smart-House Consultants, Inc. of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. They combine space technology and other high tech ideas to provide significant savings in home heating and cooling costs. Their NASA-derived Smart-House Radiant Barrier is designed to reflect away 95 percent of the sun's radiant energy.

Pretty cool!

Published by MSFC Technology Transfer Program: At Home with NASA