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NASA Technology Improves Life Here on Earth
News story originally written on August 17, 1998

Most of us don't think twice about walking outside on a sunny day, getting in the car and driving to our favorite picnic spot. But not everyone has that freedom. In fact, some children with rare skin diseases can't even venture out to their backyard except at night. And they certainly can't look out the window on the way to the beach, for fear that the sunlight would cause skin inflammation, blistering, abdominal pain or other reactions. For some children with light sensitivity disorders, even a light bulb can be dangerous!

One of the most common questions I get asked when people find out I work in the space sciences is, "what does all of that space travel do for people here on Earth?" Well, here's a terrific example!

For the first time in his life Mikie Walker stepped out into his backyard during the day. Mikie is 6-years-old, and a resident of Virginia Beach, VA. Mikie became the first American child to receive a "space suit" that protects him from the Sun. Mikie has porphryia, a genetic disorder that causes extreme sunlight sensitivity. Without his new "space suit" based on NASA technology, Mikie would never have been able to go outside to enjoy a beautiful summer day.

"Mikie's new favorite outdoor activities include playing in dirt and rolling on the lawn," his mother Angela Walker said. "He enjoys this so much that, at the end of the day, he resembles a soil-encrusted Apollo moonwalker."

"It's amazing to think that NASA astronauts having walked on the Moon means a child now can play in the sunlight," said Sarah Moody, founder and president of the HED Foundation, which donates cooling gear and other garments to children with hypohidrotic ectodermal dysplasia (HED), multiple sclerosis, spina bifida, cerebral palsy and other genetic disorders. Through the help of NASA and the HED foundation, two more English children have received spacesuits and many more children have received cooling vests so they can go outside and play.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA