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Legacy of Apollo 11 continues

July 17, 2009|By LISA PREJEAN

One of my earliest memories was watching coverage of Apollo 11 landing on the moon. Even though, at age 3, I didn't realize the magnitude of the event, that historic moment was captured in my mind.

I sensed several things.

This had not been done before.

Space exploration was exciting.

There was a "What's next?" expectation from the adults who were watching.

I was told I would remember that historic moment the rest of my life, and it is interesting to look back. Monday, July 20, marks the 40th anniversary of man's first step onto the surface of the moon.

Children today might say that milestone is ancient history. Why focus on the past when we can look toward the future?

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One compelling reason is to measure how far we've advanced in four decades.

According to NASA, many recent advancements in technology were originally developed for the space program. These have now found their way into our daily lives.

Take, for instance, satellite TV. Beginning in the late 1950s, NASA began developing satellite technology. By 1964, NASA satellites relayed the first international coverage of the Olympic Games from Tokyo to the United States and Europe.

If you've used a cordless drill or a Dustbuster, you can thank the Apollo space program. The astronauts needed to drill beneath the moon's surface to collect samples. The technology behind the tools they used aided the development of many cordless household tools we use today.

A smoke detector was developed in the 1970s for Skylab, America's first space station. Today, smoke detectors play an important life-saving role in the homes of many families.

If you've had a baby in the last 15 years or so, you can be thankful for the technology behind the infrared thermometer. NASA has blessed us with the ability to take a child's temperature with an in-the-ear thermometer. It's a much better method than the one our parents had to use. (Bottoms up on that one.)

The temperature of a star or planet can be measured through sensing of the infrared radiation it gives off. Likewise, a person's temperature can be measured using the same principles.

Chances are, you have a pair of scratch-resistant glasses or sunglasses. If so, thank NASA. While working on coatings to protect aerospace equipment from harsh environments, NASA scientists developed the technology for scratch-resistant lenses.

To read more about the ways we've benefited from the space program, check out NASA's Technology Transfer Program at techtran.msfc.nasa.gov/at_home.html.

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to lisap@herald-mail.com .

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