The left image on the top is the vortex combustion technology, developed by Orbital Technologies Corporation and NASA. In that technology, rocket fuel is fed into the combustion chamber in such a way to create a swirling vortex flow that improves the rocket engine's durability.
So, what does rocket science has got to do with improving life on Earth? Phil Plait of Bad Astronomy pointed out in his post "THIS is why we invest in science. This.", things we learn in science can have real-life applications that are quite unexpected.
In this case, knowledge from the rocket propulsion system let engineers develop a new firefighting system:
One series of tests using empty houses at Vandenberg Air Force Base compared an HMA system with a 20-gallon-per-minute, 1,400 pound-per-square-inch (psi) discharge capability (at the pump) versus a standard 100-gallon-per-minute, 125 psi standard hand line—the kind that typically takes a few firemen to control.
The standard line extinguished a set fire in a living room in 1 minute and 45 seconds using 220 gallons of water. The HMA system extinguished an identical fire in 17.3 seconds using 13.6 gallons—with a hose requiring only one person to manage.
In other words, this new system put out a fire more quickly, using less water, and — critically — with fewer firefighters needed to operate the hose. This frees up needed firefighters to do other important tasks on the job, and therefore makes fighting fires faster and safer.
There is no way you could’ve predicted beforehand that investing in NASA would have led to the creation of this specific innovation in life-saving technology. But it’s a rock-solid guarantee that investing in science always leads to innovations that have far-ranging and critical benefits to our lives.
If for no other reason that’s why we need to invest in science: in NASA, in NSF, in NOAA, and all the other agencies that explore the world around us. It’s for our own good. And it always pays off.
Plus, you've got to admit, Space Shuttle launches are amazing!