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Digital imaging technologies and new laser techniques used in the treatment of coronary artery disease have earned a place in the National Space Foundation's 1994 Technology Hall of Fame.

The technologies, first developed at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for the U.S. space program, were heralded by the foundation for their contributions to the advancement of medical diagnosis and treatment in the United States. The technologies were pioneered by JPL scientists Dr. Robert Nathan, Robert Selzer, and former JPL colleagues Drs. James Laudenslager and Kenneth Castleman.

The Laboratory's digital imaging technologies were inducted into the Space Foundation's Technology Hall of Fame during its annual symposium, being held through April 8 in Colorado Springs, Colo. The JPL-based technologies have produced new techniques for measuring arterial damage in patients with coronary disease.

Digital imaging applications are also found in widespread use today in many medical diagnostic procedures such as CAT scans, magnetic resonance imaging, ultrasound imaging and advanced X-ray technology.

Digital imaging -- a process that converts analog signals into digital information that can be enhanced by computer processing -- had its beginnings in the U.S. space program. First used in the Ranger missions to the moon, the technology has become so advanced that scientists today can create three-dimensional visualizations of spacecraft flights over the surfaces of planets such as Venus, Mars or Earth.

JPL was also honored for its contributions to medical technologies based on the development of the excimer laser. The laser technology, pioneered at JPL by Dr. James Laudenslager, is a leader in the treatment of heart disease.

Excimer lasers are used to treat atherosclerosis, the buildup of fatty deposits, called plaque, in human arteries. Through a non-surgical procedure known as laser atherectomy, physicians are able to vaporize plaque and clear blocked arteries.

Excimer, or "cool," laser systems were originally developed for atmospheric scientists studying the chemical composition of the Earth's atmosphere. The lasers eventually enabled satellites to detect ozone and other gases found in the upper atmosphere.

Recipients of the Hall of Fame awards gathered last night for a keynote address by Norman Augustine, chairman and chief executive officer of the Martin Marietta Corporation, who presided over the induction ceremony.

The National Space Foundation's annual Technology Hall of Fame is sponsored by NASA to honor individuals and companies that have made beneficial contributions to society through technology transfer and commercialization.

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