The Apollo 11 mission from the first step on the moon, which commemorates the fiftieth anniversary of this month, has triggered many scientific and technological breakthroughs.
For Apollo, NASA has built the most powerful rocket in history, Saturn V, developed by a team of engineers from Nazi defectors Wernher von Braun, who in the Third Reich administration, Wernher von Braun approved the SS-Sturmbannführera class.
But thanks to the generous credit provided by the US Congress, from the $ 150 billion today for the first three human space programs, NASA and the space industry have produced significant innovations.
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"Apollo is a laboratory to try to solve the giant technical problems we face," said Brian Odom, a historian at NASA's Marshall Space Center.
Here are some examples.
Until the 1960s, computers filled the entire room and consisted of thousands of vacuum tubes, which were very energy intensive.
Everything has changed with the arrival of solid state drives and transistors that allow miniaturization that is sufficient to be embedded in space vehicles.
"The rocket is to provide a very strong boost, but it also has to reduce mass and increase power on the computer," said G. Scott Hubbard, former director of NASA's Ames Research Center, near San Francisco. .
This evolution has been running before Apollo, but this program has accelerated the arrival of this new computer … and, ultimately, Silicon Valley.
NASA has developed a small water purification unit, weighing 255 milligrams and holding in hand. It purifies water by releasing silver ions, without chlorine.
This technology was later adopted to kill microbes in communal water distribution systems.
Freeze dried food
Another problem with space travel is the need to keep food without a refrigerator, which consumes too much space and consumes energy.
NASA researchers have refined a technique called lyophilization: dehydrated at very low food temperatures, to maintain shape and nutrition but without water, with a very reduced mass. Packaging prevents moisture and oxygen from entering.
Digital image analysis techniques developed by the NASA center to improve the surface images of the Moon have found applications in other fields, including medicine, in CT-scan and MRI imaging techniques.
Moon boots with sneakers
Neil Armstrong's boots and astronauts walking on the moon's floor are made of materials which some of them have taken a step into the world of sneakers.
An Apollo engineer, Al Gross, has succeeded in compensating for the wear and tear of athletic shoes by reusing shock absorption techniques for space shoes, according to a 1991 Spinoff magazine in 1991.
The rescue blankets used today by first aid around the world were created by NASA, to protect astronauts and their instruments from the sun and prevent overheating.
They are very simple, consisting of plastic film coated with a very thin aluminum film, reflecting infrared light.
Apollo astronauts have a geological mission: to drill lunar soil to collect rock samples, to a depth of three meters.
Black & Decker has developed an algorithm to optimize drill motors and reduce power consumption … A technology that is applied later in wireless vacuum.
Space is an extreme place, with terrible temperature variations, between the coldness of the vacuum and thousands of degrees experienced by the capsule during the re-entry of the atmosphere, without calculating solar radiation.
The US Army and NASA developed a fiber called PBI (synthetic polybenzimidazole) in the 1950s and 1960s, which was finally adopted by firefighters in the 1970s.
For NASA historian Brian Odom, this is one example of the main role of the US state. "No company can do it," he said. "But that's it, Apollo. And the space program continues to do it today."
Return on investment?
There is no doubt that the return on investment for the US economy is positive. But it would be a mistake to understand the impact of space research only on economic terms, said Casey Dreier of The Planetary Society.
"It was mainly a demonstration of technological and organizational capabilities, messages sent by the United States not only to the Soviet Union, but also to countries that had just been decolonized after the fall of European powers" and had to choose between capitalism and communism, he said.