Space shuttle program creates life-saving technology

Shuttle leads to more than 1,600 advances

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. - The touchdown of Atlantis Thursday marked the end of the era for the space shuttle. What we've gained from NASA's 30 year program will be with us for a long time. From what we eat to the cell phones we carry, the space shuttle has brought us many advances, including some that could save your life.

Who would have thought the space shuttle would help you see better? The technology that allows the shuttle to dock with satellites helped create a new device that detects how your eye moves, leading to safer LASIK surgery.

Shuttle technology will also make sure four-week-old Navya grows big and strong. While trying to make better space food, scientists discovered a nutrient in algae that was previously found only in breast milk. It's now in 95% of all baby formula.

"I think that that's amazing that they can basically come up with that and take the information they found and use it in such a productive way," said Navya's mother, Barbara Dodson.

Even what adults eat is affected. Scientists developed a safe, biodegradable product to disinfect fresh fruit and vegetables for astronauts. Based on that, they've created safer food packaging.

The shuttle is good for your heart, too. The shuttle fuel pump design allowed doctors to design a life-saving heart pump that's helped hundreds of patients waiting for heart transplants.

The space shuttle program has also given us other life saving technology like thermal imaging cameras that allow firefighters to find victims inside a burning building and locate the source of the fire. The same infrared technology used to observe the blazing fires from the space shuttle is now found at fire stations around the country. Delray Beach Fire Rescue has been using thermal imaging cameras to save lives since 1999.

"It's pretty amazing because it seems like initially it's unrelated and then you look at it. It's probably saved hundreds if not thousands of lives," said Delray Beach Fire Rescue Lt. Craig Jepsen.

Even the Jaws of Life, a tool used by first responders to free car accident victims from the wreckage, is a smaller version of the power cartridges used for separation devices on the shuttle.

"You think about how many things have been gained from that program. How many lives it saved," said Lt. Jepsen, "and that's what our main job is: to save lives."

The space shuttle program has brought us many more advances, like cell phones and GPS technology; however, did you know the shuttle could help you find love? The software used to diagnose problems with Shuttle Discovery's Reaction Control System is designed to figure out how the computer thinks. That has led, indirectly, to the development of dating software to match people.

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