Planet hunting telescope saves sight
Lenses in telescopes used for finding planets are being used in eye-surgery. These lenses provide a safer, steadier laser and can save the sight of people threatened by blindness.
Space cameras detect viruses
Cameras designed and developed for ‘capturing’ black holes are now being used to take precise pictures of viruses to help researchers and medics develop treatments.
Software used for processing satellite pictures taken in space is now helping medical researchers to establish a simple method of wide-scale screening for Alzheimer’s disease using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Symbis space robotics
A robotic arm called NeuroArm, originally used on the Space Shuttle, now helps surgeons gain a clearer view of the brain and perform intricate micro-surgery. This NeuroArm could be used for a vast number of issues, reducing the risk of damage to brain surgery patients.
Mediphan DistanceDoc™ and MedRecorder™
Astronauts need to ensure they stay healthy while in space. This has led to the development of remote medical diagnostics tools which allow images from ultrasound scans to be transmitted to Earth. DistanceDoc allows live, remote diagnostics and monitoring while MedRecorder captures diagnostic images and stores them. Both systems are now accessible to doctors and consultants for terrestrial applications.
Eagle eyes optics
To protect astronauts’ eyes from solar radiation, scientists developed an advanced formula based on an oil found in eagles’ eyes, which works by filtering out harmful radiation. This is now used commercially in sunglasses and is effective because the user has increased clarity of vision in comparison with other sunglasses.
Scratch resistant lenses
An abrasion-resistant coating had to be designed for astronauts’ space helmet visors. Foster-Grant obtained a license from NASA for the scratch-resistant coating technology in 1983 and now provides plastic glasses which retain all the original benefits associated with that material but are also scratch resistant.
This system was recently developed to track the health of astronauts. The software allows doctors to effectively diagnose and monitor a patient’s health and is now used in diagnosing the cause of heart attacks or strokes.
When astronauts re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere, their blood pressure drops dramatically, so this device was designed to combat the problem. It is now available to the public and used to treat the blood pressure of cardiac arrest suffers. It is also useful for treating other high risk blood pressure conditions.
Safe drinking water
While in space, astronauts need to stay hydrated and drink safe water. To assist with this, NASA developed a Microbial Check Valve, which is a sophisticated water purification system. The valve is now used in countries with poor access to safe drinking water, with places such as Pakistan, Dominican Republic and San Juan all benefitting from this potentially life-saving valve.
LADARVision® 4000 laser eye surgery
This eye surgery is based on technology which helps spacecraft perform docking manoeuvres. Laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis (LASIK) is now the most widely performed type of eye surgery, allowing fewer people to be reliant on glasses or contact lenses.
VisiScreen™ (ocular screening system)
Scientists created photo-refractive optics technology to detect abnormal eye defects in order to monitor astronauts’ health. It is now incorporated in a screening system which is quick and effective, so is therefore ideal for detecting illness in small children.
Electronic and vibration sensor systems used by a deaf engineer working for NASA resulted in the breakthrough development of the cochlear implant. This implant has had a huge impact upon many people affected by hearing problems by restoring their hearing.
Light emitting diodes (LEDs) for medical applications
LEDs designed for research into plant growth in space are now being used to treat cancers. Further to this, the potential of using LEDs for wound healing is currently being investigated.
Heart defibrillator energy source
Lasers originally developed for use in space can emit pulses of power which can be used to preserve food, sterilise medical products and power heart defibrillators.
Tempur® foam mattresses
NASA’s research plan to use a cushioning material to protect astronauts during lift-off resulted in Tempur foam. This substance has since been used in a variety of ways including Space Shuttle seats, commercial mattresses and orthopaedic support. The foam works by gently returning to its original form after contact, reducing shock on impact.
Stereotactic breast biopsy technology
Work on a solution for medical imaging in space has resulted in a system used for high resolution scans to detect early breast cancer. This approach has been shown to reduce pain and risk of radiation exposure.
Excimer laser angioplasty system
A laser system originally developed to study the atmosphere in space from satellites has now been adapted to produce a medical tool which can treat heart disease.
Programmable implantable medication system
A miniature pump created for the Viking space probe which landed on Mars is now being used for medicinal purposes. It is used in implant devices such as rechargeable cardiac pacemakers and automatic injection devices for conditions such as Type 1 diabetes.
Monitors enabling medication management in patients’ homes
In order to quantify an astronaut’s health, medics developed a sensor which communicates between the astronaut in space and Earth. This can now be used in cardiovascular disease patients’ homes to monitor blood levels and risk of a heart attack.
Kinotex® sensor technology
A robotic arm developed for the International Space Station is used to monitor dementia patients’ mattresses to alert nurses if they have left their bed and thereby helps improve patient security. A similar sensor is now being used in the car industry.
Athlete training aid
Satellite navigation technology can help athletes monitor and analyse their training progress. The TrainGrid system allows them to share information with their coaches and doctors via Bluetooth. It can also monitor workers in hazardous environments to ensure their safety.
Medical analysis and environmental protection
Miniature ceramic gas sensors, originally developed for measuring oxygen levels around space re-entry vehicles, are now used
to measure human breath. These lightweight sensors can be incorporated into hospital masks to measure a patient’s health.
Light and strong materials for prosthetics
A material designed for a spectrometer mounted on the International Space Station was later developed for a prosthetic leg for a medal-winning Paralympian. The plastic reinforced with carbon fibre was used in the creation of Wojtek Czyz’s prosthetic leg, helping him to break the world long jump record at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics.
Diabetic insulin pumps
Piezoelectric technology was developed for European satellites to absorb energy through kinetic movement. It is now used in a wrist-watch sized strap that can be worn by people with Type 1 diabetes and holds 2–3 weeks’ supply of insulin, converting movement into energy for the pump.
CAT and MRI scanners
CAT (computerized axial tomography) and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scanners were developed from technology originally used for digital signal processing work for use during the Apollo Lunar landings. This technology is now being used in medical treatments to help monitor cancerous tumours – in just a few hours it can produce results that would have taken weeks with standard X-ray machines.
Satellite technology is now helping the elderly to stay at home longer. By fitting a small navigation device, you can track if people are stationary too long, which means they could have fallen. This allows them to continue to live independently, but with a non-invasive ‘watchful eye’ keeping them safe. There is also a project in development to use similar technology to help visually impaired people navigate around streets better.
Insect research systems
A company is developing technology to monitor bed bugs in hotel rooms using the same ‘sniffing’ principles used in one of experiments on board the Philae comet lander, which is part of the ESA Rosetta space programme.