Space Products & Innovation
Science, Biotechnology, and Health Care
Scientists have relied on ground observations, GNSS collars, and satellite images to track animal migration. These tools allow scientists to monitor migration, but not to predict where or when it will happen.
The Portable Unit for Metabolic Analysis (PUMA) was invented at NASA Glenn Research Center to monitor an astronaut’s oxygen intake and carbon dioxide release, basic factors in astronaut health. This same technology is now being used to track the treatment progress of patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.
To reduce the logistical requirements of a crew operating in space, a spacecraft must carry a precise combination of plants and microorganisms that efficiently recover oxygen, potable water, and nutritious food from waste products.
Robonaut 2, a humanoid robot on the ISS, has lent its technology to another NASA project: the X1 robotic exoskeleton. The 26-kilogram (57-pound) X1 attaches to both legs, with controls and a harness extending over the person’s back and shoulders. X1 has been developed by NASA and industry partners for dual purposes.
Advances in robotics led by space programs are finding a wide array of uses in the medical field. In addition to the hospital QC Bot derived from the Mars rovers, a robot capable of performing biopsies for breast cancer has been developed and is entering clinical trials.
NASA’s Advanced Diagnostic Ultrasound in Microgravity (ADUM) research team developed training modules and remote guidance techniques that would allow astronauts to perform accurate ultrasounds on patients after just minutes of training.
Since instruments developed for spaceflight often need to withstand harsh conditions and be small and lightweight, they can be used in new or enhanced applications on Earth. By the time the Curiosity rover landed on Mars in August 2012, one of its instruments had already inspired a portable tool for geologists on Earth.
The Aetrex Navistar is a shoe that can be used to track patients with diseases such as Alzheimer’s or dementia who are at risk of wandering off and becoming lost. Using a GPS receiver and cellular transmitter located in the heel of the shoe, position information is transferred automatically to a secure server.
Provizion Optics developed a retinal camera attachment to be used by astronauts in orbit to study the effect of zero gravity on their eyes. Although originally designed for use in space, the device’s ability to go anywhere and send images to medical professionals located elsewhere made it a convenient way to examine people’s eyes on Earth.