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!
NASA developed this ant hotel’s special gel to protect its inhabitants from the G-forces experienced during take off. Once in space, astronauts could study ants in zero gravity. Unfortunately for Earth-shackled buyers of this spinoff product, space shuttle and zero gravity are not included.
To give the wearer superior vision, the lenses in these sun blockers are forged with a NASA-pioneered dye, which mimics the retinal fluid found in the eyes of eagles, falcons, hawks and other birds of prey. So naturally, they’re named after the tiger.
Like the ant colony, the memory foam used in Tempur-Pedic’s mattresses and pillows was developed in the 70s from a material NASA used to relieve astronauts of the G-forces felt when being fired into space. Apparently, part of being an astronaut back then was being able to jump up and down on a bed that also happened to have a full glass of wine resting on it.
Fisher Space Pen
Instead of using technology developed by NASA, it was actually Fisher that developed the anti-gravity ink technology for the space agency. The pen’s greatest claim to fame isn’t its use during the Apollo missions, but rather the episode of _Seinfeld that had a hearty laugh at its expense.
Fend off hypothermia with the aid of these Danish sleep booties. The same temperature controlling down material that protects your piggies was originally developed for astronaut space suits. Avoid mirrors while wearing.
Fishing Tackle Lube
Gone fishin’? Spritz your tackle with this slippery stuff, which is based on the lubes used by NASA to protect its space shuttle crawler from corrosion and rust.
Astronaut Ice Cream
This freeze-dried treat was created in 1975 in conjunction with the National Air and Space Museum to replicate an authentic snack was had been packed in the astronauts’ lunch pails. Today, the Boulder, CO, company that makes them basically freeze-dries just about anything it can think of and labels it astronaut food.
Eco-Quest Fresh Air
Why settle for a bottle of Febreze when you can quash embarrassing smells with a space-age air purifier? Using the same technology NASA employs to keep space shuttle air spic and span, this unit claims to keep things fresh by duplicating the power of sunlight and thunderstorms. Sounds . . . messy.
Zero Gravity Recliner
Lap up those harmful UVA and UVB rays poolside in the same position naturally assumed by astronauts in space, a position recognized to reduce pressure on your spine, relieve muscle tension and improve circulation.
This glorified paperweight contains air, water, shrimp and plant life based on NASA research into self-sustaining, bio-regenerative systems for long-term life in space stations. It’s the perfect companion piece to a mini putting green.