NASA, Where’s My Jet Pack!?

Ant farms? "Space" pens? Freeze-dried ice cream? The Grouse laments the agency's less-than-stellar product offerings

I’m in awe of NASA as much as the next guy. But, as the venerable space agency toasts its golden anniversary next month, I just can’t escape the Grouse in me. Sure, the last 50 years of extra-terrestrial poking around have been filled with innovation and breakthrough. Unfortunately, there’s also been a lot of crap—specifically on the consumer side of things. Why does it seem like only the lamest, most cheeseball products on the market claim to be NASA-approved?

If you watch a lot of cable or ever flip through Sky Mall, then you know what I’m talking about. Sports cars and plasmas never carry the “Space Certified Technology” seal; that badge of honor seems to be reserved for dull, low-quality knickknacks you’d expect Billy Mays or Anthony Sullivan to shill for.

And what does that “Space Certified Technology” seal even mean?

In 1958, Congress passed a mandate requiring NASA to share research and development with the private sector in the hopes that NASA technology would lead to exciting new commercial products. So, where’s my Jetsons-style robo-maid or my aforementioned personal jet pack? Instead, we’ve had to settle for things like a mattress, a pen and some freeze-dried ice cream—the kind of stuff that’s hocked in low-budget infomercials and at The Sharper Image. Not surprisingly, the “Space Certified Technology” seal has lost whatever significance it was once meant to carry. Instead of “high-tech and cutting edge,” it roughly translates to “don’t waste your money.”

Of course, it would be foolish to deny the fact that some useful NASA technologies are being employed and improved upon in the medical and scientific industries. And, to the best of my knowledge, NASA technicians aren’t exactly leap-frogging around the Kennedy Space Center on their own personal jetpacks—so maybe it’s unfair to expect a consumer model at this point. But, hey, it’s NASA’s 50th birthday and there’s never been a better time for a roast! So, sit back, light up a space stogie and enjoy our slideshow of the ten “best” space-age products currently on the consumer market.

Join PopSci as we celebrate NASA’s 50th anniversary!

SunTiger Sunglasses
Fisher Space Pen
TempraKON Booties
Fishing Tackle Lube
A packet of freeze-dried ice cream with a photo of an astronaut on the packaging.
Eco-Quest Fresh Air
Zero Gravity Recliner
Self-Sustaining Ecosphere