A story at MSNBC.com explains how the technological benefits reaped from investing in the US space program
are numerous, but often indirect or difficult to explain. Quoting:
"NASA has recorded about 1,600 new technologies or inventions each year for the past several decades, but far fewer become commercial products, said Daniel Lockney, technology transfer program executive at NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C. ... 'We didn't know that by building the space shuttle main engines we'd also get a new implantable heart device,' Lockney said. 'There's also a bunch of stuff we don't know we're going to learn, which leads to serendipitous spinoffs.' ... But some innovations do not appear as a straight line drawn from NASA to commercial products. The U.S. space agency may not claim credit for computers and the digital revolution that followed, but it did create a pool of talent that perhaps contributed to that transformation of modern life. NASA brought together hundreds of the brightest scientists and engineers in the 1970s to work on the guidance computers that helped the Apollo missions land humans on the moon. When the Apollo era ended, many of those people dispersed to private companies and to Silicon Valley."