Space Exploration and Research Revolutionized Auto Tech On Earth

Chad Kirchner
by Chad Kirchner
space exploration and research revolutionized auto tech on earth

Space may be the final frontier, but humanity’s efforts in up there resulted in new and advanced technology down here. Some of that technology has found its way into the automobile. Since it’s the 50th anniversary of humans first stepping foot on the moon, it may be a good time to check out some of the space-inspired tech in your car.

Nissan created an infographic highlighting some of the tech. Tires are the most important part of any car, and modern winter tires can trace some of its roots to the space program. Nokian developed winter tires in the 30s, but Goodyear’s special tires for the lunar rover needed to remain pliable at -195 degrees. Those are conditions that aren’t experienced on Earth.

LED lighting, used on many news cars due to their output and lower power consumption were used in space missions for growing experiments. LED diodes are more reliable than a traditional bulb. In scenarios where power is limited — like space — more energy saved is more energy that can be used for other functions.

Satellites in orbit were obviously developed for that purpose, but some things like GPS-based navigation were restricted to military and government use for the longest time. Commercial use began in the 1980s, but the government degraded the quality of the system until a bill was signed in 2000 to allow everyone to have access to the high-accuracy location system. Now you use it for everyday navigation.

Seat technology has also advanced because of the space program. Astronauts spend a considerable time seated on missions, which can have adverse affects on health. The seats are also expected to handle the G loads of launch and re-entry. Automotive seat manufacturers like Recaro focus on those ergonomic issues, while still developing seats to hold airbags and other technology demanded by earthly consumers.

Nissan’s own seats, which they call Zero Gravity, were co-developed with engineers from NASA to address ergonomics and comfort.

Finally, coatings and shielding designed to protect a spacecraft have practical applications in both motorsports and everyday driving. Not only that, but the technology must be lightweight. Coatings for brakes, heat shields and uses of aluminum and carbon fiber all have spent time in space being developed.

Space exploration and research is expensive and time-consuming, but the benefits often trickle down to everyday uses here on Terra Firma.

[Image: Nissan]

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  • APaGttH APaGttH on Jul 18, 2019

    Nissan makes a lot of noise about their zero-g seats, which are stunningly uncomfortable.

    • See 3 previous
    • ToolGuy ToolGuy on Jul 19, 2019

      @Flipper35 According to pages 54-59 of the Haynes Owners' Workshop Manual for the 1971-1972 Lunar Rover, the rim was aluminum (had to be re-spun more thickly by the vendor one month prior to launch, because GM - and Boeing), each tire was hand-woven from 800 individual lengths of zinc-coated (and x-ray inspected) piano wire, and the riveted chevron strips (50% of contact area) were titanium. There was also an interior "bump-stop" tire made of titanium held in place by flexible bands.

  • Inside Looking Out Inside Looking Out on Jul 18, 2019

    "Nissan makes a lot of noise about their zero-g seats, which are stunningly uncomfortable." Yeah but that is for vertical take off not for driving on the road horizontally.

  • Jeanbaptiste Any variant of “pizza” flavored combos. I only eat these on car trips and they are just my special gut wrenching treat.
  • Nrd515 Usually for me it's been Arby's for pretty much forever, except when the one near my house dosed me with food poisoning twice in about a year. Both times were horrible, but the second time was just so terrible it's up near the top of my medical horror stories, and I have a few of those. Obviously, I never went to that one again. I'm still pissed at Arby's for dropping Potato Cakes, and Culver's is truly better anyway. It will be Arby's fish for my "cheat day", when I eat what I want. No tartar sauce and no lettuce on mine, please. And if I get a fish and a French Dip & Swiss? Keep the Swiss, and the dip, too salty. Just the meat and the bread for me, thanks. The odds are about 25% that they will screw one or both of them up and I will have to drive through again to get replacement sandwiches. Culver's seems to get my order right many times in a row, but if I hurry and don't check my order, that's when it's screwed up and garbage to me. My best friend lives on Starbucks coffee. I don't understand coffee's appeal at all. Both my sister and I hate anything it's in. It's like green peppers, they ruin everything they touch. About the only things I hate more than coffee are most condiments, ranked from most hated to..who cares..[list=1][*]Tartar sauce. Just thinking about it makes me smell it in my head. A nod to Ranch here too. Disgusting. [/*][*]Mayo. JEEEEZUS! WTF?[/*][*]Ketchup. Sweet puke tasting sludge. On my fries? Salt. [/*][*]Mustard. Yikes. Brown, yellow, whatever, it's just awful.[/*][*]Pickles. Just ruin it from the pickle juice. No. [/*][*]Horsey, Secret, whatever sauce. Gross. [/*][*]American Cheese. American Sleeze. Any cheese, I don't want it.[/*][*]Shredded lettuce. I don't hate it, but it's warm and what's the point?[/*][*]Raw onion. Totally OK, but not something I really want. Grilled onions is a whole nother thing, I WANT those on a burger.[/*][*]Any of that "juice" that Subway and other sandwich places want to put on. NO, HELL NO! Actually, move this up to #5. [/*][/list=1]
  • SPPPP It seems like a really nice car that's just still trying to find its customer.
  • MRF 95 T-Bird I owned an 87 Thunderbird aka the second generation aero bird. It was a fine driving comfortable and very reliable car. Quite underrated compared to the GM G-body mid sized coupes since unlike them they had rack and pinion steering and struts on all four wheels plus fuel injection which GM was a bit late to the game on their mid and full sized cars. When I sold it I considered a Mark VII LSC which like many had its trouble prone air suspension deleted and replaced with coils and struts. Instead I went for a MN-12 Thunderbird.
  • SCE to AUX Somebody got the bill of material mixed up and never caught it.Maybe the stud was for a different version (like the 4xe) which might use a different fuel tank.