NASA has announced its efforts to combat COVID-19, utilizing efforts across the nation to augment the national response, the administration reported on Friday.
“All the work being done shows how NASA is uniquely equipped to aid in the federal response to coronavirus by leveraging the ingenuity of our workforce, mobilizing investments made in the U.S. space agency to combat this disease, and working with public and private partnerships to maximize results,” said NASA administrator and 2019 Wash100 Award recipient Jim Bridenstine.
NASA has launched NASA@WORK, an agency wide call for ideas on its internal crowdsourcing platform. The submitted ideas will recommend strategies for how the agency can leverage its expertise and capabilities to help the nation cope with the pandemic.
In addition to the NASA@WORK initiative, the agency workforce has developed ideas and worked with partners to develop responses to the health crisis within the last month, including VITAL Ventilator, Aerospace Valley Positive Pressure Helmet and Surface Decontamination System.
Engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California have designed a new high-pressure ventilator tailored specifically to treat COVID-19 patients. Ventilator Intervention Technology Accessible Locally (VITAL), has passed a critical test and now is under review for an emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The solution has been designed to treat patients with mild symptoms to keep traditional ventilators available for patients with more severe COVID-19 symptoms. VITAL can be built faster and maintained more easily than a traditional ventilator.
VITAL has been manufactured with fewer parts to make it more economical to produce. It was designed to use parts currently available to potential manufacturers but not compete with the existing supply chain of currently made ventilators.
NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in California partnered with Antelope Valley Hospital, the City of Lancaster, Virgin Galactic, The Spaceship Company (TSC), Antelope Valley College and members of the Antelope Valley Task Force to solve possible shortages of critical medical equipment in the local community.
The task force has developed an oxygen helmet to treat COVID-19 patients that exhibit minor symptoms and reduce the need for those patients to use ventilators. The device will function like a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine to force oxygen into a patient’s low-functioning lungs.
The Aerospace Valley Positive Pressure Helmet was successfully tested by doctors at Antelope Valley Hospital. The company has produced 500 and a request was submitted April 22 to the FDA for an emergency use authorization.
Through its Regional Economic Development Program, engineers at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Ohio have partnered with Ohio company Emergency Products and Research in 2015 to guide the development and production of a small, portable and economical device.
The device will decontaminate spaces, including ambulances, in under an hour and at a fraction of the cost of systems currently in use. AMBUStat has been used in police cars and other areas to kill airborne and surface particles of viruses. NASA will conduct additional research to continue to maximize the effectiveness of this device on COVID-19.
“NASA’s strength has always been our ability and passion – collective and individual – for solving problems,” Bridenstine added.
NASA’s legacy of human space exploration, research and technology development has yielded countless innovations that prove the direct and profound impact of taxpayer investment in America’s space program on our quality of life on Earth, including improved technologies for water purification, air filtration, kidney dialysis and tele-medicine, as well as research that has led to improved vaccines, drug therapies, and mitigations for bone loss.
We can only speculate as to the breadth of transformative benefits that will come from America’s return to the Moon through NASA’s Artemis program and our efforts to put the first humans on Mars.