Beyond Tang and Teflon: Witnesses Highlight NASA-Derived Technologies that Save Lives and Fuel Economic Growth

Jul 12, 2012
Beyond Tang and Teflon: Witnesses Highlight NASA-Derived Technologies that Save Lives and Fuel Economic Growth

Washington DC – The Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics today held a hearing to examine the direct economic and societal benefits that investments in NASA have generated.  Witnesses discussed a broad range of technologies developed as a result of NASA research and highlighted areas where continued investments could help stimulate the pipeline for future economic growth.

“In the public media, discussions of NASA’s general contributions to society are often distilled down to Tang and Teflon,” said Subcommittee Chairman Steven Palazzo (R-MS) referring to the common misperceptions that NASA invented these well-known products.  “Yet NASA-derived technologies have paved the way for innovative advances in the medical field, environmental stewardship, and public safety.”

Since 1976, NASA has documented well over 1,700 successful examples of technology transfer and commercialization.  Despite decades of demonstrated success, NASA’s budget has remained essentially flat even as other research and development (R&D) agencies are seeing increases.  Investment in NASA’s technology transfer activities, however, significantly declined in recent years. 

“Whether we are developing needed technologies for space exploration or advancing the nation's aeronautics capabilities, great ideas from NASA have a way of spreading to the benefit of everyone,” said Dr. Mason Peck, Chief Technologist at NASA.  “Our Nation’s future economic success is tied to our ability to out-innovate the rest of the world. NASA is an important part of this future. America expects boldness from NASA. We are now returning to our innovation roots, taking the long-term view of technological advancement that is essential for accomplishing our missions.”

Representing Impact Instrumentation, a company that develops medical devicesA. “While there certainly can be culture clashes between NASA and a commercial organization, a program that promotes collaboration and partnership leverages the best of both, spurs development and deployment of technology, promotes domestic job growth and incubates a new group of American engineers and researchers.”

Discussing ways to improve technology development at NASA, Dr. Richard Aubrecht, Vice President of Moog Inc. said “Congress should insist NASA have clear statements of objectives to be accomplished with target dates.”  Aubrecht continued, “The model of NASA investing in really hard problems and challenging American companies has enabled the development of many core, pre-competitive technologies.  This model is an example of where a Federal investment in technology development has an enormous impact on the overall economy.”

Testifying on behalf of Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, a company that manufactures space propulsion systems, Mr. John Vilja discussed the importance of NASA’s cutting edge research.  “By taking on difficult science and exploration missions in space, we force ourselves into multi-disciplinary advancement, which in turn enables new solutions to some of our toughest challenges here on earth.”  Mr. Vilja encouraged NASA “to keep challenging our nation’s current capability and continue going beyond what we believe is possible today.”

Mr. Brian Russell, Chief Executive Officer of Zephyr Technology, testified that as a result of working with NASA his company’s products have improved and advanced to become dual use.   “Helping doctors, patients, athletes, soldiers, firemen and all of us and our families who want to stay fit and healthy – including NASA, and its astronauts.  This success has let us grow and employ more people.” Russell concluded, “Our NASA partnership continues to be a straightforward and mutually beneficial relationship.”

The following witnesses testified today before the Subcommittee:

Dr. Mason Peck, Chief Technologist, National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Mr. George Beck, Chief Clinical and Technology Officer, Impact Instrumentation, Inc.
Mr. Brian Russell, Chief Executive Officer, Zephyr Technology
Mr. John Vilja, Vice President for Strategy, Innovation and Growth, Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne
Dr. Richard Aubrecht, Vice President, Moog Inc.