15 Surprising Household Products Invented by NASA

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The allure of space travel has been the catalyst for the international space race of the 1960s and 1970s. Still, many people will be surprised to discover that it’s also spurred innovation in our everyday lives.

NASA has been directly responsible for inventing many typical household items that are a significant part of our lives in 2024. Today, you will find out which everyday products have NASA and its engineers to thank for their existence. Let’s dive in.

1. Smartphone Cameras

Gen Z taking photo
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Believe it or not, smartphone cameras directly result from NASA engineering. Think about it: minuscule cameras with high-resolution capabilities are a must on any spacecraft or satellite. NASA pioneered this industry, and the technology was used to create modern smartphone cameras.

It’s pretty cool that we have NASA to thank every time we snap an Instagram photo or selfie.

2. Scratch-Resistant Eyeglass Lenses

Woman wearing sunglasses
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Millions of men and women take for granted the ability of their sunglasses to ward off scratches in everyday use. That’s no coincidence, and we have NASA to thank for the underlying technology.

While working on a spacecraft water filtration system, a NASA researcher inadvertently created a special plastic that is difficult to scratch. The technology has been licensed by manufacturers like Ray-Ban ever since. Talk about a game-changer!

3. Sneakers

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Do you know those stylish and comfortable sneakers you wear throughout the week? They wouldn’t have been possible without NASA’s research and development. The light, cushion-like padding found on the soles of popular Nike sneakers is the same material used to create astronaut helmets.

As someone who has always dreamt of being an astronaut, I find it nice to know I’ve got some NASA technology underneath my feet while working out at the gym.

4. Modern Smoke Detectors

Smoke Detector
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While NASA didn’t invent the first smoke detector, the modern version found in nearly all households in the United States was a byproduct of the organization’s innovation.

Today, photoelectric-powered smoke detectors, which detect when smoke (or even steam) cuts off the device’s light sensor, are responsible for saving countless lives. These detectors were necessary in space because calling the fire department was not an option!

5. Memory Foam Mattresses

Memory Foam Mattresses
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For decades, astronauts and NASA scientists worked tirelessly to create space-friendly materials that would withstand the rigors of traveling through the upper levels of the Earth’s atmosphere (and beyond). I’d say they succeeded in this mission because we have modern memory foam mattresses to show for it.

The next time you lay down on your expensive, memory foam-equipped mattress, remember to thank NASA before you drift off to sleep.

6. Wireless Headphones

Woman wearing wireless headset
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Sometimes, inventions are a byproduct of necessity, and wireless headphones are no different. Due to the lack of gravity, wired communication systems pose challenges, primarily due to wires and cables floating everywhere. To rectify this, NASA developed wireless communication technology that ultimately created the first wireless headphones.

In 2024, this technology has been perfected as Bluetooth radio frequencies capable of transmitting data at high speeds and bandwidth. It’s a fantastic origin story for tech nerds to tell.

7. Home Insulation

Home Insulation
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Before the days of space travel in the middle of the last century, American homeowners were at the mercy of the outside elements regarding heating and cooling costs. However, thanks to NASA’s innovations, the same insulation used to protect space shuttles is the same we use to protect our homes today.

Foam-based insulation can quickly keep excessive cold or heat from entering the interior of our homes, and it wouldn’t be possible without the genius of NASA.

8. Bowflex-Style Home Gym Equipment

Bowflex dumbbell
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One of the most old-school methods of building muscle is lifting heavy things up and putting them down. Unfortunately, that was never an option for astronauts. Bringing weights on board a space shuttle was logistically impossible. (Plus, who are they trying to impress? They’re already astronauts.)

Interestingly, Bowflex’s line of home gym equipment was invented based on spring-centric technology that astronauts use to properly transport items and devices from one end of a ship to another while traveling through space.

9. Ear Thermometers

Ear Thermometer
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Oh, how I hated getting a thermometer shoved into my ear canal by a suspicious parent who thought I was faking an illness to get out of going to school that day.

I have NASA to blame for that unfortunate side effect of lying to my mom; the ear thermometer was created by NASA scientists to give astronauts a non-evasive way to check their temperature and guard against illness while in space.

10. The Dust Buster

Dust Buster
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For generations, the ubiquitous dust buster has been the most indispensable cleaning tool in homes. The device is the epitome of convenience; it’s so easy to fire up a dust buster and clean up crumbs on the couch instead of busting out the vacuum cleaner (or, even worse, cleaning it by hand).

We can collectively thank NASA for this fantastic consumer product, as the underlying technology was initially used as a low-power vacuum equivalent in space.

11. Home Water Filtration Systems

Home Water Filtration Systems
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Unsurprisingly, access to clean, filtered water is a top priority for anybody who spends an extended time in outer space. NASA solved this problem by inventing modern water filtration systems for use in the International Space Station and space shuttles, guaranteeing astronauts plenty of water.

Of course, this technology was adapted for home use, giving millions of men and women access to the same clean, fresh drinking water. Thanks, NASA!

12. Baby Formula

Baby Formula
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Before NASA’s best and brightest figured out a solution, astronauts’ eating habits were controversial. Thankfully, thanks to NASA’s innovation, products like freeze-dried food and baby formula not only catered to astronauts’ appetites but also made their way into homes across the country.

The creation of baby formula revolutionized the baby food industry. For the first time, moms could nourish their children without sacrificing essential vitamins and nutrients.

13. The Computer Mouse

Computer Mouse
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While inventor Douglas Engelbart is credited with inventing the computer mouse we all know and love, the handy device was actually developed in collaboration with NASA, who looked to extend the use case of computer systems.

Out of every item on this list, the computer mouse is something we use more often than we think. It’s an essential part of being productive on your computer in 2024.

14. Laptop Computers

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In the 1960s and 1970s, computers were large, nearly too big to fit in space shuttles, orbiters, and landers. Clearly, NASA focused on developing computing technology that was more portable than ever before. Although they didn’t bring the first consumer laptop to market, NASA was responsible for developing the ever-shrinking home computer found in millions of homes (and in the palms of our hands) today.

(As someone currently writing this on a laptop, I must tip my hat to the geniuses at NASA.)

15. LED Lighting

LED Lightbulb
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Low-powered lighting is necessary for living and working in space, and the original form of LED lighting came from endless hours of NASA’s research and development. In 2024, LED lighting is everywhere, and we can thank the men and women who tirelessly advocated for ultra-efficient lighting for hundreds of astronauts over the years!

It’s mind-blowing to think how influential NASA has been throughout our lives, and LED lighting is the tip of the iceberg.


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