Helping healthcare

The trickle-down, spin-off technology from our exploration of space

MiniMed insulin pump

The MiniMed insulin pump for people with diabetes came from space technology, as did these other innovations:

  • artificial limbs and hips
  • invisible dental braces
  • dialysis filters
  • ear thermometers
  • tests for cardiovascular disease
  • heart pumps for patients awaiting transplants
Credit:

NASA Technical Reports

The exploration of space can have benefits for healthcare on the ground. One concern in space travel is the effect on bone density and muscle. But weakened and fragile bones are a problem on Earth too, in osteoporosis – which affects around three million people in the UK. Work to minimise degradation of astronauts’ bones on the International Space Station (ISS) can improve ways to treat the condition here on Earth.

The ISS is also equipped with dexterous robotic arms designed to undertake complicated repairs. That technology has been adapted for operating theatres, where it is used in procedures including knee replacements.

Even our search for life on other planets has benefited life at home. In the 1970s the Viking lander touched down on the surface of Mars, equipped with an experiment to sniff out life in the Martian soil. The same technology was later adapted into an insulin pump for people with diabetes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

Questions for discussion

  • Can you find five further health innovations that have come from space?
  • Have you ever used one of these innovations?

Downloadable resources

About this resource

This resource was first published in ‘Space Biology’ in June 2015.

Topics:
Physiology, Immunology, Medicine, Health, infection and disease
Issue:
Space Biology
Education levels:
16–19, Continuing professional development