A NASA technology that is benefiting life on Earth in the form of commercial products is called a "spin-off." There are thousands of spin-offs - things we use everyday that were originally invented for use in the space program. Here are a few:
Satellite TV - Without the technology pioneered by NASA to fix errors in spacecraft signals, we would be unable to reduce and correct scrambled pictures and sound in satellite television signals.
Memory Foam - Also known as temper foam, memory foam was developed under a NASA contract in the 1970s that set out to improve seat cushioning and crash protection for airline pilots and passengers. Memory foam has widespread commercial applications, in addition to the popular mattresses and pillows.
Ear Thermometer - Diatek Corporation and NASA developed an aural (ear) thermometer. It uses infrared astronomy technology to measure the amount of energy emitted by the eardrum, the same way the temperature of stars and planets is measured. This permits quick temperature measurement.
Invisible Braces - Invisible braces are made of translucent polycrystalline alumina (TPA). A company called Ceradyne developed TPA in conjunction with NASA Advanced Ceramics Research to protect the infrared antennae of heat-seeking missile trackers. Another company, Unitek, was working on a new design for dental braces. They discovered that TPA would be strong enough to withstand use and is translucent, making it a prime material for invisible braces.
Scratch-resistance Lenses for your Glasses - Scratch-resistant lenses were developed by NASA by applying a diamond-like lubricating coat over plastic lenses. This application was originally used in the space program to protect astronaut’s visors. Today, the coating is used in most eye glasses that people wear everyday.
Cordless Tools- While the first cordless tool was invented by Black & Decker in 1961, in 1963 the Martin Marietta Corporation contracted with Black & Decker to design tools for NASA. As a result of this work, Black & Decker created several spinoffs, including cordless lightweight battery powered precision medical instruments and a cordless miniature vacuum cleaner called the Dustbuster. This research paved the way for our current cordless tools.
Water Filters / Water Purification - Since bacteria and sickness would be a big problem in space, astronauts needed a way to cleanse the water taken up into space. Water filter technology had existed since the 1950s, but NASA wanted to know how to clean water in more extreme situations and keep it clean for longer periods of time. The technique of activated carbon filters and silver ions to clean water pioneered by NASA is in most home water filters we use today.
Smoke Detectors - Teaming up with Honeywell Corporation, NASA invented the first adjustable smoke detector with different sensitivity levels to prevent false alarms.
CAT Scanners - When NASA engineers faced the difficulty of locating a safe landing spot amidst the dust fields of the moon, they developed a scanning system using high-frequency sound waves, magnets, and computers. This new scanning technology translated into ultrasounds, MRI machines, and CAT-scans widely used by doctors today.
Bonus Fact: Tang was not invented by NASA as the popular mythos goes. General Foods developed Tang in 1957, and it has been on supermarket shelves since 1959 – long before the US sent its first astronaut into space.