News outlets have recently reported that NASA has developed a technological innovation that could save the lives of firefighters across the world. On the Htet Tayza blog I explain how this is just the latest example of what we’re capable of doing with the technology we’ve already developed.
Have you ever heard what some of the greatest artists, musicians and writers in the world say about their work? Many suggest that once the work in question has left their orbit of control, it’s no longer theirs; it’s the publics’ to do with what they will.
The same thing can be said for technology. A technological inventor can have one intention for how their creation should be used; but once it has been released into the public sphere, another equally as innovative inventor could have another. The classic example is the microwave; the invention of this miracle machine wouldn’t have been possible without the invention of radar, which was used for a completely different purpose at the height of World War Two.
Thermal protection system technology
The Independent has brought another example to my attention. They reported that two researchers at NASA are adapting thermal protection system technology to create an invention that’ll make it easier for fire fighters to do their jobs without risking their lives.
Thermal protection system technology was originally developed by the space agency to help space entry vehicles survive the spectacular amount of heat that builds up as they barrel through the Earth’s atmosphere. However, these researchers have adapted it to create a huge “tin foil wrap” out of the heat shielding material, which firefighters can use to wrap themselves up like burritos; a move that will give them the ability to survive extreme temperatures.
Explaining the tech
Anthony Calomino and Mary Beth Wusk, two researchers from NASA’s Langley Research Centre, came up with the idea after a 2013 forest fire in Arizona that killed 19 people.
Writing in an email sent just after the tragedy, the two explained the technology. They commented: “During the last six years we have been working with a NASA team of thermal material specialists that are designing lightweight, multi-layered flexible thermal protection systems for space entry vehicles.”
The two also pointed out: “These systems are capable of protecting delicate hardware from temperatures exceeding 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit (1,649 degrees Celsius). With the progress made in material development, we feel we may have a more capable technology that can protect our firefighters under extreme heating conditions.”
They’ve certainly done that. This innovation is just the latest in a long line of examples that shows us the multi-purpose nature of technology. We have everything we need already to make the world a better place, we just need to get creative and figure out how to use it.