NASA Spinoff Tech You Have Used

Did you know that one degree celsius difference in temperature between your right and left leg means you may have sensory nerve damage in your lower back? Did you know a hot spot on your skin, or inside your body, could mean an infection or an inflammatory disease? Detected cold spots often mean poor blood supply. How do we determine these temperatures? Infrared technologies owe much to NASA sponsored research. Yes, we’re talking about more NASA spinoff technology. This is spinoff tech you have used in your home or in a medical facility.

image of the moon NASA spinoff tech you have used could have come from the Apollo Lunar Landing Program

What is Infrared

Infrared Radiation (IR) is invisible to most humans. Also infrared light, it is electromagnetic radiation (EMR) with wavelengths longer than those of visible light.

German-born British astronomer, Sir William Herschel discovered infrared radiation on February 11, 1800 when he observed its effect on a thermometer.

The first experiments with infrared occurred during WWII. German engineers attempted to create heat-seeking missiles and proximity fuses. The war ended before they could.

Many countries experimented with thermal detectors of IR. Thermocouples and bolometers are two such devices still used today.

NASA developed IR scanners for detecting objects in space. That led to an entire array of other uses for infrared detection.

Ear or Aural Thermometers

image of infrared or ear thermometer, a NASA spinoff tech

With concerns about the pandemic and fevers, have you used one of these or had one used on you recently?

Diatek Corporation of San Diego, California adapted infrared sensor technology developed for space missions into an ear thermometer. Within two seconds it measures heat radiated from an eardrum. It save nurses time and stress on their wrists (from shaking down thermometers—ask me how I know!)


Thermography is a test that uses an infrared camera to detect heat patterns and blood flow in body tissues.

There are thermography cameras, videos, and scanners.

With those of these devices your medical team can detect restricted blood flow because of narrowing of the blood vessels or a blood clot. The device also detects inflammatory diseases and some cancers.

Body Imaging

An image of an MRI machine, another NASA spinoff tech

In the mid-1960s, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) pioneered digital signal processing (DSP) for the Apollo Lunar Landing program. DSP is used in advanced body imaging techniques including computer-aided tomography, also known as CT and CATScan, and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).

 NASA Spinoffs You Have Used

Have you used an ear thermometer? Had a thermal video or thermography done? Perhaps you’ve had an MRI or CATScan. There is undoubtedly NASA Spinoff tech you have used in your home or elsewhere. Did you know these things were spinoffs? 

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