During the 1990s, the Jet Propulsion team at NASA were researching ways to improve the CMOS image sensors in order to reduce the size of digital cameras on spaceships, without compromising on image quality.
When the CMOS active pixel camera was invented, it proved useful not only in spacecrafts but also for use on Earth.
NASA partnered with Honeywell to make the first ionization smoke detector. That led to the introduction of cheap photoelectric smoke detectors in 1979.
This little device has been instrumental in saving many lives over the years. All thanks to NASA for the innovative idea.