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NASA INVENTORS HELP MAKE LIFE BETTER ON EARTH




Jerry Berg
MSFC, Huntsville, Ala.
(Phone: 256/544-0034)
				September 26 2003
RELEASE: 03-167

INVENTORS HELP MAKE LIFE BETTER ON EARTH THROUGH SPACE-AGE TECHNOLOGY

In 1970, when renowned inventor and rocket scientist Dr. Wernher von
Braun
said farewell to NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville,
Ala., he
remarked, "My friends, there was dancing here in the streets of
Huntsville
when our first satellite orbited the Earth. And, there was dancing again
when the first Americans landed on the Moon. I'd like to ask you - don't
hang up your dancing slippers."

Forty-two years and 848 patents later, the space center's inventors show
no
sign of hanging up their "dancing shoes!" 

Von Braun, Marshall Center's first director and well known for his
leadership in developing rockets for space, was the inventor responsible
for
the first Marshall Center patent  - a rocket-propelled missile - on Jan.
10,
1961. 

Marshall inventors of recent years are not as well known as von Braun.
However, their inventions make an important contribution to the nation's
space program and to the American economy, said Jim McGroary, Marshall's
patent counsel, or legal advisor.

"Engineers and scientists here have established a long history of
innovation
and creativity," said McGroary, who also provides professional advice to
Marshall inventors. "And NASA's patent program supports the Center's
inventors by giving them the recognition they deserve, as well as
transferring space technology to the American economy, so everybody
benefits," he added.

Unlike the days when von Braun was issued a rocket-propelled missile
patent,
today patented inventions must demonstrate commercial potential.
Inventors
are advised to develop their ideas, when possible, with the needs of the
market in mind, said Sammy Nabors, commercial assistance team leader of
the
Marshall Technology Transfer Department. That's because in 1962, a few
years
after the space agency was created in 1958, NASA established the
Technology
Utilization Program to promote the transfer of aerospace technology to
the
private sector. As a result, life on Earth has benefited from an
outpouring
of space technology "spin-offs" into the fields of health, medicine,
transportation, public safety, computer technology, industrial products,
consumer products, and many more areas.

Some of the better-known inventions developed by the people of the
Marshall
Center include:

VISAR

Helping law enforcement identify criminals and solve crimes is a
surprising
benefit from a NASA-developed technology known as VISAR. Short for Video
Image Stabilization and Registration, this software was created by NASA
scientists Dr. David Hathaway and Paul Meyer to study violent explosions
on
the Sun and examine hazardous weather conditions on Earth. VISAR
stabilizes
and enhances poor quality video, brightens dark pictures and enlarges
small
areas to reveal clues about crimes. Under commercial licensing to
Intergraph
Corp., of Huntsville, Ala., VISAR software has been incorporated into
the
company's Video Analyst workstation, which has been sold to numerous law
enforcement agencies. 

Hathaway and Meyer have personally helped police departments nationwide,
as
well as the FBI, solve dozens of criminal cases using their VISAR
invention.
After the recent high-profile assault case involving an 11-year-old girl
in
a store in West Virginia, police contacted Hathaway and Meyer for help
in
enhancing images of the suspect captured on store security cameras.
Based on
video images, a suspect has been identified, arrested and charged. 

Hathaway and Meyer received NASA's 2002 Commercial Invention of the Year
award for VISAR. The two were also nominated by NASA to compete for the
national Inventor of the Year Award, an annual competition that
recognizes
outstanding American inventors whose work has been patented or made
commercially available. 

VISAR was inducted into the Space Technology Hall of Fame in 2001.

Aluminum Alloy

Another NASA patent success story is a high-strength aluminum-silicon
alloy
invented by Jonathan Lee, a Marshall structural materials engineer, and
PoShou Chen, a scientist with Morgan Research Corp., of Huntsville, Ala.
The
alloy was developed seven years ago when a major automobile manufacturer
approached NASA about developing a strong, low-cost alternative to
current
aluminum alloy pistons that would lower engine emissions.

Seven patents have been filed on the aluminum alloy, and the technology
was
licensed to three companies last year. Another license has been signed
with
Bombardier Motor Corporation of America of Melbourne, Fla., an outboard
marine engine manufacturer of Johnson and Evinrude engines. The alloy is
three times stronger than conventional cast 
aluminum alloy at high temperatures, and will enable engine
manufacturers to
make engines that produce more horsepower with less weight, while
emitting
fewer pollutants. The alloy is also being tested for a new fighter jet
design and holds promise of improving gas mileage in cars and
recreational
vehicles, as well as boats.

Knee Brace
 
A team of five Marshall engineers, including principal inventor Neill
Myers
and co-inventors Michael Shadoan, John Forbes, Kevin Baker and Darron
Rice,
invented the Selectively Lockable Knee Brace. This prosthetic device is
designed to aid recovering stroke and knee injury patients.

The knee brace attaches to a person's thigh, with the lower part secured
to
the foot. It allows knee movement when weight is not on the heel, then
locks
into position when weight is placed on the heel. This allows patients to
walk with a more natural, stabilized gait and promotes a quicker, less
painful recuperation than with devices that lock the knee in a rigid,
straight-leg position or permit free motion. 

The engineer team developed brace mechanisms and materials in 1996 as an
outgrowth of their work on NASA propulsion systems. The team members
were
named Marshall Center Inventors of the Year in 1996 and 1998. The
technology
was one of 15 featured at a White House observance in 2000 of the 10th
anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

Another patent - for an improvement involving a device that locks the
brace
in place, increasing its reliability - has been applied for and is
pending.

Center and Inventors Benefit

The Marshall Center benefits from inventor royalties, and has received
more
than $60,000 in royalty fees since 1993. But as an incentive, inventors
receive a percentage of royalties collected as well, said Nabors. 

"Marshall scientists and engineers have an outstanding record of
reporting
new technologies," Nabors said. "The inventor benefits, the Center
benefits,
and the American public benefits."

For more information about licensing and Marshall's Technology Transfer
Program, visit:

http://www.nasasolutions.com/

For more information about patents, visit:

http://www.uspto.gov/

-end-




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