While many think of NASA as the government agency that sends scientists into space, some of NASA’s most important work frequently is used to help people on Earth.
In recent months, NASA has used its extensive network of scientists and researchers to combat the coronavirus. And in short order, the agency provided patients and healthcare providers with tools that may have been used to save lives.
This week, NASA outlined a number of innovations the agency developed to support the fight against the virus.
NASA created an open source for N95 respirators so people can make their own masks by using 3D printers. N95 respirators are unique as they protect the wearer from the virus. NASA’s designs were engineered to meet or exceed standard N95 performance, can be used for different purposes, are compatible with commercially-available filters, and do not disrupt the supply chain.
If you have access to a 3D printer, here is how to create an N95 respirator designed by NASA.
In addition to NASA’s open-source N95 respirators, the team from Johnson Space Center developed and tested a sterilization protocol to combat a national shortage of N95 masks. This allows N95 respirators to be reused by healthcare providers.
“I had a very deep and personal connection to the evaluation (of N95 masks), because my wife is a medical professional… on the frontlines, with only one mask allocated for her to use and re-use daily,” said NASA engineer and project lead Jeremy Jacobs. “She has been very concerned about cross contamination between patient-to-patient and to our family.”
Among other innovations, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California designed a new high-pressure ventilator tailored specifically to treat COVID-19 patients. It was designed to treat patients who might not require a full-featured ventilator, keeping the nation’s limited supply of traditional ventilators available, NASA said.
NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in California joined several other agencies to create a helmet that functions like a continuous positive airway pressure, commonly known as CPAP, machine to force oxygen into a patient’s low-functioning lungs.