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Vital Signs

How space exploration has impacted our health

  • Story Highlights
  • Space exploration has provided us with numerous medical benefits
  • Space Shuttle engines have influenced an ingenious heart pump
  • Measuring infrared radiation of the planets has revolutionized the thermometer
  • NASA put the first men on the moon 40 years ago on July 20, 1969
By Matthew Knight and Anouk Lorie
For CNN
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- In these cash-strapped times, you might well wonder why governments around the world continue to pour millions of dollars in to their respective space programs.

Space exploration has produced a host of medical benefits including the ingestible thermometer pill.

Space exploration has produced a host of medical benefits including the ingestible thermometer pill.

But one of the very important by-products of space exploration has been the adaptation and invention of medical equipment and technologies which are making individual lives better and in many cases saving them.

Most people are familiar with temper foam -- perhaps the most famous of NASA's many medical spinoffs -- which started life protecting astronauts' posteriors in the 1960s and is now used in a host of products from mattresses to athletic shoes.

It is surprising to note how many aspects of space exploration have played a part in helping scientists improve the health of nations.

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Who would have thought that analysing fluid flow around a Space Shuttle engine would help create a tiny heart pump?

Or that a water purification device for astronauts could help patients suffering from kidney disease. And that the humble hospital thermometer would be transformed by measuring infrared radiation in the stars and planets?

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