10 tech breakthroughs to thank the space race for

6. The joystick

Next time you're enjoying a good waggle in front of your PC, spare a thought for the scientists at NASA who invented the joystick in the first place.

Saitek joystick

The joystick was originally invented for use on the Apollo Lunar Rover, helping astronauts to steer the moon buggy around the moon.

7. 3D graphics and virtual reality

NASA was also instrumental in the development of 3D graphics, virtual reality and flight simulators, chiefly because it needed a way to visualise space-based environments here on earth. The smooth landing on the moon achieved by astronauts onboard the Lunar Excursion Module (LEM) was largely the results of hours of practice using flight simulators.

Ratchet and clank

8. Non-reflective displays

If you find high gloss displays on laptops and desktops a bit icky (thank you, Apple), at least you get hold of the alternative - monitors and TV screens with a non-reflective coating that enables you to see what's on screen without peering at your own mug.

Dell latitude

The coating was originally developed for use on displays on the Space Shuttle, to stop astronauts from suffering similar problems. We also have NASA to thank for scratch-proof sunglasses - the carbon coating used was originally developed for the visor's on astronaut's space helmets.

9. Ear thermometers

Anyone who's ever had to take a child's temperature will appreciate this space race spinoff. Ear thermometers use infra-red technology originally developed by NASA to measure the temperature of stars.

Omron ear thermometer

The idea was commercialised by US company Diatek which recognised the need for an alternative to mercury thermometers for taking quick, accurate temperature readings of hospital patients.

10. Satellite navigation

NASA can't take the credit for inventing the Global Positioning System (GPS), but it arguably had a big hand in the device that sits on your dash. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory developed Global Differential GPS, which enables vehicles to be placed in three dimensional space with accuracy down to one metre.

TomTom go

The technology is used worldwide on commercial aircraft and also in unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) currently being used by the US military.


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