Updated: Jul 9, 2022
What do baby formula, your phone’s camera, and the GPS system have in common?
It’s probably quite difficult to find a link between these, but have no fear, we’re here to clear! The answer to the question is quite easy: SPACE!
It’s quite hard to picture baby formula’s relation to space, but it’s true! There are many innovations in
our society that are born from research and projects aimed to make space travel more comfortable or efficient. Some are easy to relate while others seem extremely bizarre to even think in the same
Baby formula, for example, began with NASA’s research into algae for life support of Mars. During this research, scientists found two omega-3 fatty acids usually found in human milk that formulas already in the market lacked, but are essential for infant development. From then on, more then 90% of formulas in the world have the much-needed additive. While hardly accurate, it’s still fun to say that some babies eat space food!
It’s common knowledge than in the last 20 years, phones have evolved into miniaturized do-it-all
computers. One feature normally highlighted by the marketing teams are the cameras’ high resolution because we all want to snap that perfect picture. But, once upon a time, cameras were bigger than phones are now and it was space research that minimized them enough for us. The reason behind this research was a scientist’s desire to also snap the perfect picture during interplanetary missions. His research and tinkering led him to combine CMOS, a semiconductor, and improve the quality with CDD technology, which produced CMOS active pixel sensors—the technology that paved the way to the miniaturization of the camera.
The GPS systems works with the numerous satellites in Earth’s orbit, but its function is more complex
than simply making the satellite find you. For starters, trilateration, the use of three satellites, is used to pinpoint exact locations and bypass gravitational warps. To make it even more complicated, time is also a problem. Clocks in Earth, like the one in your phone, run faster than clocks in satellites. This is because time is relative and the further away from Earth’s gravity, the slower time is. To counter this, clocks aboard satellites are slightly faster than regular clocks. If this wasn’t the case, the satellites would observe where we’ve been, instead of telling us where to go next.
There are many other services and products in our day-to-day that have their origin in space research like no scratch lenses, memory foam, and cochlear implants. It’s only natural that as space research continues and space travel becomes more frequent, we will reap benefits in our day-to-day. Maybe one day, our society will reach Jetsons’ level of technology.
CMOS – complementary metal-oxide semiconductors typically used in computers.
Semiconductors - materials which "sort of" conduct electricity, but not enthusiastically.
CDD – charge-coupled device – light sensitive circuit that converts light into pixels
Trilateration – positioning from three distances
The God Equation by Michio Kaku