From Space to Earth
“A lot of things are not easy to solve when you’re trying to break through a new technology right from the get-go,” says Harish Manohara, supervisor of the Nano and Micro Systems Group and principal member of the technical staff at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).
That was a quote from the 2015 NASA Spin-off report on the Multi-Angle Rear-Viewing Endoscopic Tool (MARVEL), a 3D Endoscopic Brain Surgery Camera…made possible with help from NASA. Spin-offs are shared technology arrangements between NASA and the private sector where resources, expertise, and testing regimens are exchanged to advance technology that NASA is interested in. Much of NASA’s funding is spent in this way and, as the quote says, often shortcuts the normal path of discovery which can sometimes cause good ideas to languish.
If you have an idea that could someday help NASA, you might be able to enter into a Space Act Agreement with them where they can help you improve it and make it real. They might even help fund development of your product and even become your first customer or licensee. This could also make you a part of the upcoming space technology race as various NASA partners and commercial space interests look to you as the NASA approved leader of whatever that new device does.
Space exploration has to push the envelope of technology and do both old and new things in new ways. The unique challenges of space almost always have to take a different approach. Often, that different approach takes the Earth-bound version of that tech on a jog around the block as folks strain their brains to make something new happen with old tools. You’d be shocked at the number of things you use every day that were touched by NASA scientists.
Here is a very small sample of some of the 44 new NASA spin-offs highlighted in the 2015 Spinoff Report…
What goes around comes around. You’ve heard folks say things like, “If we can send humans into space, then why can’t we …”. Well now you can say, “I don’t know. Let’s go to NASA and find out!”
I’ve often said that the value of all such things, combined and spread over a generation of people and numerous, networked generations of the technologies, carry more value than all of the money spent on NASA and everything else that they do. The scientific discovery of space, and the cool of it all, is just icing on the space cake. The expectation of more of the same should be justification enough for all of the space technology spending and investment that we can muster. Through it, every one of us are involved in either making, selling, or using space stuff.
Don’t let anyone tell you that money spent on NASA is wasted. Just over a half a penny per dollar of tax money is spent by NASA every year. With it they do all of these things and also lead the world in space exploration and innovation.
If they can do that with just a half-penny, just think what they could do with a whole penny!