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Benefits the Space Shuttle Era

What are some of the more earthly benefits that have come out of the space program?

July 08, 2011

Dear Control Engineering: I see that Atlantis has taken off this morning on what is being billed as the final space shuttle mission. What are some of the side benefits that have come out of the space program over the years?

   Aside from things like Tang, Space Food Sticks, and other astronaut food, there are many more earthly benefits that have come out of the space program. While I suspect nobody would be able to identify and count them all, NASA did try to offer a few in an article published in 2008. One point of the article is that NASA’s work helped advance research methods in addition to specific products and processes:

   “As famed heart surgeon Dr. Michael DeBakey, who has collaborated with NASA on one of its most beneficial inventions, an artificial heart pump, has said, ‘NASA is engaged in very active research. It has as its goal to explore space. But to do so, you’ve got to do all kinds of research – biological research, physical research and so on. So it’s really a very, very intensive research organization. And anytime you have any type of intensive research organization or activity going on, new knowledge is going to flow from it.’”

   One Control Engineering article from earlier this year discussed a specific industrial control solution that helped maintain the shuttle program, but didn’t result directly from space-related research. There are probably countless developments similar to that.

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--Peter Welander, pwelander(at)