Actual space technology has been making cars haul ass way faster for years now, including a solar car that broke speed records using parts taken directly from the Hubble Space Telescope. But that's nothing compared to what's on the way, including muscle cars that use heat-resistant pistons. Click through for details.
Nuna, a Dutch solar car, finished first in the 2001 World Solar Challenge, reaching a record-breaking top speed of 100 KPH and crossing from Darwin to Adelaide in a record-breaking 32 hours and 39 minutes. The car included dual junction and triple junction gallium-arsenide solar cells, which the European Space Agency had developed for its SMART-1 mission to the Moon. The car also had Maximum Power Point Trackers, which balance the power output between the battery and the solar cells, and which the ESA included on its Rosetta space probe. And the Hubble Space Telescope's contribution was two solar strips from its large solar array, salvaged by an astronaut in 1993. Here's a video. Let's not mock the wacky Dutch accents:
And Nuna's successor, Nuna II, uses improved ESA solar cells that harvest 20 percent more power.
But it's not just solar cars that are benefiting from space technology. The Pescarolo-Judd C 60 prototype racing car uses composite materials developed for space flight to reduce its weight by 38 kg, giving it better heat protection while boosting its speed.
And this is just the beginning of the ways space tech is being used in super-fast cars, or will soon be.
A special kind of carbon fiber known as carbon-carbon, developed for missile nosecones, is already used to create car brakes that can withstand temperatures of up to 3000 F. But soon, NASA says, it'll be used to create higher performance pistons and connecting rods that could allow engines to go way faster without overheating.
And when you're taking sharp turns at 150 mph, you'll soon be in less danger of rolling over and ending up looking like an accordion. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Variable Dynamics Testing (VDT) vehicle will use a computer algorithm to alter several factors in rollovers, including the "understeer coefficient," load-transfer distribution and frequency and damping of the "vehicle roll mode."
Not to mention the fact that NASA sponsored a contest to develop a "Personal Air Vehicle," aka "flying car."
Meanwhile, the Mars Spirit Rover's AutoNav system lets it navigate the Martian terrain unaided, and could help to lead to the driverless cars that GM and other carmakers say we'll have within a decade.
Actual race cars pack a lot of technology from the space program. For example, NASCAR drivers used to suffer third-degree burns on their feet, when the metal floorboards of their cockpits reached 330 F from the overheating engines... until 1996, when NASCAR and the Kennedy Space Center experimented with installing the heat shields from the Space Shuttle in its cars. Similarly, the cooling flame-retardant suits NASCAR drivers wear come from the Advance Crew Escape Suits (ACES) worn by Shuttle crews.
And then there are some uses of NASA technology that improve cars in less turbo-charging ways. Like this child car seat, which uses NASA's "systems integration expertise" to creating a better environment for the kiddies, including an entertainment system, video monitoring and a biotelemetry tracking system. Basically, it's like putting your kid inside a Teletubbie. And then there's this car wax, which claims to use NASA technology to ensure you'll never have to wax your car again. It looks like NASA is pretty desperate to find some valuable uses of its technology before its budget gets sliced down to nothing.