What The F*** Has NASA Done For You Lately? Quite A Lot, Actually ...

By Mo Mozuch on August 13, 2012 6:29 PM EDT

NASA
Tourists take pictures of a NASA sign at the Kennedy Space Center visitors complex in Cape Canaveral, Florida April 14, 2010. (Photo: Reuters)

NASA does a lot more than send stuff into space. Unfortunately, most American taxpayers only know about the high-profile NASA success stories, like the Curiosity rover. And while these achievements are undeniably a part of the NASA vision, too often the technological advancements spurned by research and development undertaken by NASA go unnoticed. A fun new website , wtfnasa.com, gives answer to the question "what the f**k has NASA done to make your life awesome." Turns out, NASA has done quite a bit. Highlights include:

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-NASA developed flight software that has reduced the travel time for commercial airplanes. Also developed de-icing heaters now used on airplane wings.

-Water filtration. Technology from the Apollo missions led to Brita water filters. NASA recently funded the development of a nanofiber water filter that removes 99.99 percent of bacteria, parasites and pollution from water. The company that developed the tech is now using it for municipal water supplies.

-Google Earth wouldn't be possible without NASA's satellite technology and expertise. Neither would satellite TV or cell phones.

-The DustBuster and other handheld vacuums can trace their roots to technology NASA took to the moon.

-Tang. 'Nuff said.

-Invisible braces are made with a polycrystalline alumina (TPA) that was developed under a NASA contract seeking materials to protect the infrared antenna on heat-seeking missile trackers.

-Developed shoe insoles for moon landing that inspired the designs for modern athletic shoes.

-Freeze-dried foods used for space missions changed the way food could be packaged and stored.

Despite all of these incredible technological achievments that benefit not just the U.S. but the entire world, there are still people in the media who suggest the U.S. should eliminate NASA. After all, they argue, NASA receives approximately $18 billion each year in federal funding. That's a lot of money, sure. But in the whole of the U.S. budget its just a drop in a bucket of waste and mismanagement. The defense budget ALONE accounts for $738 billion.

Take a second and let that figure sink in.

$738 billion every year on defense spending. This means that the U.S. spends about four decades worth of NASA funding for one year of defense spending. Nevermind the fact that the $738 billion we spend is more than the next 13 countries combined, and that those 13 include staunch allies such as the U.K., France and Canada. By contrast, the next closest country for space spending is Russia, with an annual space budget of about $7 billion.

American taxpayers need to get their priorities in order. NASA research has shown its potential to change the way world works. Cellphones alone are a multi-billion dollar industry. If you could add up all the commercial interests profiting off of NASA-inspired technology the dollars would be in the hundreds of billions.  NASA tech often yields social returns in terms of technological advancements, but also represents the best of American ideals. It, literally, looks beyond our petty differences on the planet to grasp at the questions that have vexed mankind since the first time a caveman pointed at the sky in wonder. 

Watching the Curiosity rover land amidst the 2012 Olympic games begged the question: Which country took the silver in sending a complex robot to a planet millions of miles away and sending back live pictures and valuable science for the whole world to use? None. And doesn't the American flag look better hanging in the control room of NASA, or emblazoned on a Mars rover, or standing eternal on the surface of the moon than it does on the side of a tear-gas canister, or a cruise missile's fuselage or the wings of an unmanned drone?

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