How we all use space technology

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Space exploration benefits humans on Earth in more ways than most of us ever imagine.

Scifest Africa. (Supplied)

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (Nasa) acting-deputy chief Jim Adams, lecture at Scifest Africaat 13h00 on March 12 will share with visitors his insider perspectives on how the space agency’s programmes improve life on Earth.

He will present his talk on “How investing in space is changing your life on Earth” as part of a high profile lecture series under the theme “Into the Space” at Scifest Africa in Grahamstown, Eastern Cape from March 12 - 18. Every year since 1976 Nasahas produced a publication called “Spinoffs”, which explains how science and technology that were developed in its space programme have spinoff benefits for humanity.

So far it featured close to 2000 technologies in a wide range of fields including health, medicine transportation, public safety, consumer goods, energy and environment, information technology, and industrial productivity. Many of the spinoffs have come from quite unexpected quarters and almost ironically benefitted those who least expected it. For example, David Saucier, a Johnson Space Center engineer was able to receive a heart transplant thanks to a low cost, low power, implantable heart pump based on Space Shuttle fuel pump technology that he and his colleagues had helped to develop. We all appreciate how important it is to have safe food, especially when you’re up in space and a long way from the nearest doctor.

Johnson Space Center partnered with a private sector company to develop a safe and nontoxic biodegradable solution to disinfect fresh fruits and vegetables for Space Shuttle crews. The company perfected a food-grade, soluble version of the technology and commercialised it as an environmentally friendly, easy-to-use sanitiser on Earth. The product kills 99.999% of bacteria on contact, leaves no residue and does not impact the food’s nutrient content.

These are only a small sample of technologies that were developed for Nasa’s space programme and are now used to make life better for all of us. Jim Adams will open our eyes to many other interesting and creative ways that space technologies have already become part of our everyday lives.

Scifest Africa is supported by the department of science and technology.

This article forms part of a supplement made possible by the Mail & Guardian's advertisers. The contents have been supplied and signed off by Scifest Africa.

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