By Ashini K Ekanayake
“ One small step for [a] man, and one giant leap for mankind”
50 years ago, on 20 July 1969 , this phrase echoed around the world, and til today it is a marvel to some how we managed to land on the moon. This venture not only inspired a legion of future adventurers, but also innovations, some of which we have taken for granted. This blog post will act as a homage to this grand undertaking half a century ago, and will go through some innovations which have resulted from the technologies and research carried out during the Apollo 11 mission.
1. ENRICHED BABY FORMULAS
One of Nasa’s main challenges not only lies in expanding their technological capabilities to discover more than they currently can, but also to ensure the health and well-being of their crews on the International Space Station. In the 1980s, scientists worked with NASA to test the usage of certain strains of micro algae as a nutritional substitute, a source of oxygen, or perhaps to speed up the process of waste decomposition. After conducting numerous experiments, they realized that a certain strain of Microalgae was able to produce docosahexaenoc acid (DHA) naturally and in very high qualities. DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid and plays a huge role infant and adult health, especially in terms of learning ability and mental development. DHA is only introduced to the body through dietary sources, hence any supplements which possess it have a huge demand. As such, thanks to the research, modern baby formulas have become much more effective than their predecessors1.
2. TRUCK AERODYNAMICS
Initially, the main design challenges surrounding vehicles lay in their bulky nature. As these vehicles travel down the highway, they force the air in front of the vehicle out of the way, creating high pressure zones around the truck.However, at the back of the truck, the air is unable to deal with thee abrupt turn at the end of the vehicle, and this causes the creation of a low pressure zone. The combined effect of the high pressure vortices of air surrounding the truck and the low pressure zone at the back of the truck creates huge amounts of aerodynamic drag, decreasing fuel efficiency. Edwin J. Saltzman, an aerodynamic engineer who studied the effects of drag and wind resistance on a space shuttle or an aircraft, stepped in with a team of researchers to overcome this. By rounding the edges of the vehicle, similar to the design of the rounded nose of a space shuttle, drag was reduced by more than 59%, and this increased the efficiency of fuel consumption by approximately 22%2.
3. CARDIAC PUMPS
Approximately one million people in the world have debilitating heart conditions, and would greatly benefit from a heart transplant. However, the demand for donor hearts greatly outweigh the supply, and less than 3,000 total transplants are performed each year in the United States. However, with an innovation from NASA and collaborating doctors, a lifesaving heart pump was created, and functions as a bridge to a heart transplant, keeping critically ill patients alive until a donor heart is available. NASA engineers were able to provide their insight on the development of the heart pump, since the speed of the fluid flow through a rocket engine has many similarities to the flow of blood through the heart. The resulting design of the pump greatly reduced blood cell damage, as well as the tendency for blood clots. Compared to available cardiac pumps, the new innovation is approximately one-tenth their size, making it less invasive, and less than 5 percent of the patients implanted developed device-related infections3.
Hence, it can be determined that innovation can be found in almost any form, and truly shows the diverse nature of product design and development, where expertise in a particular area such as rocket science can be applied to a completely different sector, such as healthcare. The true challenge lies in bridging this knowledge, truly making an even greater leap for Mankind.