Many of us have been glued to the TV set, watching the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China. Many may be unaware that NASA technology has been used to help the U.S. Olympic swim team. As we watched U.S. swimmers shatter world record after world record, and win Olympic medal after Olympic medal, we take special pride in the fact that they were wearing swimsuits with NASA-tested fabrics.
Researchers from Speedo’s Aqualab, its global research and development facility, and Warnaco, Inc., the U.S. licensee of the Speedo brand, approached NASA Langley Research Center to conduct research on drag reduction of swimsuits because of the center’s long history of wind tunnel testing on drag reduction for aircrafts and boats. Aqualab worked with NASA aerospace engineer Steve Wilkinson, other U.S. and foreign research organizations, as well as U.S. Olympic swimmers, to develop the LZR Racer swimsuit.
As explained by Mr. Wilkinson, “Speedo’s Aqualab approached us after the 2004 Summer Olympics for help in evaluating the viscous drag and roughness characteristics of candidate fabrics for a new competition swimsuit for elite swimmers. Working with Aqualab researchers, we developed a wind tunnel test protocol to assess fabric performance, based on extensive work done by NASA on drag reduction in the mid-1980s. We entered into a Space Act Agreement whereby Speedo would deliver fabric samples and we would evaluate the viscous drag and surface roughness. In all, more than 60 fabrics were tested in one of Langely’s small low speed wind tunnels to assess which fabrics and weaves had the lowest drag. With computational studies indicating that drag or skin friction is about one third of the total restraining force on a swimmer, any reduction in drag should help swimmers go faster.”
Obviously, wearing this swimsuit will not make everyone an Olympic champion – such a reward comes from the complete dedication and exceptional efforts of these men and women. Nevertheless, NASA’s participation is an interesting story about how our testing can help reduce water resistance and may help swimmers go faster.
All U.S. swimmers wore the LZR Racer. The U.S. won medals in 31 events, winning gold in 12 of them. For 23 out of 25 of the world records broken at the Beijing games, the swimmers were wearing the Speedo LZR Racer. Americans broke 11 of those records or 44 percent of the world records broken. 94 % of all gold medals and 89 % of all the medals were won by swimmers wearing the suit. Additionally, every men’s swimming event was won by an athlete wearing the LZR Racer.
On a previous blog regarding the proposed Agency commercial space policy, I received a number of excellent comments. Any comments on that blog should be directed to Ken Davidian, and I have forwarded your reactions and suggestions to him for review as we develop the agency-level version of this policy. I especially appreciate the clarification on point (5) regarding long-term "financial" government support. Another comment concerned the potential for the federal government to take someone's idea and pass it on without compensation. I am in complete agreement with you. It would not be fair for someone in the federal government to take someone's unique idea and bid it with the sole intention of giving it to a favored contractor. That's why we have the unsolicited proposal process and procedures to protect company's proprietary data. Thank you again for your comments.
When that blog was posted, comments were posted automatically without any prior check on content. On a Federal website, we are obligated to screen for inappropriate language etc., before something gets posted. We simply don’t have the manpower to screen incoming comments (real-time) for inappropriate language etc. We are resource-constrained at HQ and that situation will not be alleviated any time in the near future.