10 best NASA inventions you own

NASA boffins may spend their time looking to the sky, but their innovations are used right here on Earth

Nasa, you've given us so much. But we'll just look at the 10 best bit. Thanks you awesome space travellers you.

Water filters

Astronauts drink their own pee. They do. This is a thing that happens. Since 2008, a percentage of the water on the International Space Station has been recycled urine: after being filtered, distilled, oxidised and ionised, apparently it’s quite refreshing. You probably have an earlier version of the technology on your kitchen counter: the silver ion filters used by companies like Brita were originally designed for the Apollo moon missions. So you may not be able to drink your urine, but at least your tap water won’t taste like it.  

[Image: Brita]

Memory foam mattresses

It’s hard to get comfortable when you’re strapped to a missile careening through the heavens. To protect astronauts during blast off and landing, NASA came up with memory foam: a squishable polyurethane that always returns to its original shape, even when compressed to a tenth its original size. It’s been adapted for crash helmets and mattresses, so you feel as if you are sleeping on a cloud, rather than ploughing through them.

Super Soaker

The appearance of the Super Soaker triggered a garden arms race: gone were the piddling squirters of yesteryear, replaced by high-powered weapons of mass saturation. Thus it’s appropriate they were invented by a nuclear engineer, Dr Lonnie Johnson, while working at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He was messing around with a heat pump and, after attaching it to his sink, realised the potential for childish mayhem. He was become drench, the soaker of worlds.

Invisible braces

NASA astronauts are square-jawed, buzz cut superpeople, oozing with the Right Stuff. These All-American Heroes can’t ruin their smiles with All-British Teeth. Invisible braces were developed in conjunction with the NASA Advanced Ceramics Research centre, to protect the instruments on heat-seeking missile detectors. Talk about a killer smile.

Heston Blumenthal

No, he isn’t the on-board chef for the International Space Station. No one wants to see leftover Snail Porridge floating around. However, some of the experimental techniques developed for hungry astronauts are now in kitchens around the world. NASA’s cook/chill preservation is used for hospital and airline food. Meanwhile freeze drying keeps its nutritional value but loses 80 per cent of its weight, producing slightly spongy food like the Neapolitan ice cream above. The process is used everywhere from cereal to restaurants like Mr Blumenthal’s.