What has the Moon done for us in the last 39 years?
July 20, 2009 2:56 PM   Subscribe

What terrestrial technologies did the Apollo program, in particular the manned missions to the Moon, yield?

While the space race provided many advances in computers, communications and knowledge about what goes on beyond the Earth's atmosphere, what specific technological advances were gained through the moon landings?

During the uptick of Apollo 11 nostalgia the last few days, many news stories talked about the "technological advances" that the moon shot have created. What technologies, specifically, can we claim our physical presence on the moon brought?

(Please bear in mind, I am an adult who still hasn't recovered from the realization I will not be an astronaut. I am not disparaging the overall effort of the endeavor, not dismissing it, just curious.)
posted by tip120 to Technology (5 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
There were electronics made specifically to handle the navigational requirements of Apollo 11, like the guidance system developed at Draper Lab (then the MIT Instrumentation Lab), as well as microcontrollers and other electrical components that didn't exist.

Conveniently, a former EE prof of mine was just telling me today about an early microcontroller made entirely of NOR gates that was developed specifically for the Apollo mission. We discussed it as we were working with a chip the size of a dime that has orders of magnitude more computing power than the electronics used on Apollo 11 combined. That's a pretty direct legacy.

And a quick Google will give you the 10 best technologies from Apollo 11.
posted by olinerd at 3:04 PM on July 20, 2009

According to this page...
  • Cooling Suits
  • Recycling Fluids = Improved Kidney Dialysis
  • Astronaut Conditioning Equipment = Physiotherapy equipment
  • Space Suit Technology Modernizes Athletic Shoes
  • Reflective Materials Insulate Homes
  • Water purification technology
  • Freeze-dried food
  • Synergistic coatings = "from pizza making to laser manufacturing"
  • Green Building Employ Space Suit Textiles
  • Insulation on Alaskan Pipeline
  • Flame-Resistant Textiles for Firefighters, Soldiers

posted by rokusan at 3:05 PM on July 20, 2009

Thanks for the examples.

However, and without this spiraling into chatfilter, aren't those all pieces of the space program in general? Microprocessors were going to get smaller, suits were needed for spacewalks, thermal insulation for low earth orbit, etc.

The PC advisor article lists things "inspired by the space programme," despite their headline. The Apollo NASA page lists a number of things that could have been discovered/invented during long term orbiting missions. Perhaps it is too late and I am feeling too cynical ;)
posted by tip120 at 3:39 PM on July 20, 2009

...aren't those all pieces of the space program in general?

You need to look at the space program as a unified entity building toward landing on the moon. Starting with Gemini, all missions were specifically designed to develop technologies and methods to put a man on the moon.

So, yes, many things are part of the space program in general, but the entire space program, in effect, was the man-on-the-moon mission.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:56 PM on July 20, 2009 [2 favorites]

there's the Lunar Laser Ranging Experiment which helped to confirm the gravitational constant and Einstein's Theory of Relativity.

The Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments are also applicable and had numerous results.
posted by namewithoutwords at 4:17 PM on July 20, 2009

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