MOUNTAIN VIEW (KCBS) – This year’s NewSpace conference at NASA Ames Research Center in Moffett Field offered hints at where the space agency and the private sector are headed now that the space shuttle program has ended.

More and more companies are interested in using space research to develop commercial products, even as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration turns to private companies to carry out research.

READ MORE: Tsunami Alert Forces Daylong Evacuation of Berkeley Marina

Google’s Lunar X Prize is a prime example of leveraging tax dollars by working with the private sector to spur innovation, said Lori Garver, deputy administrator at NASA.

“Would it cost us more to have our very own mission to the moon to get this lunar science data? You bet, but if someone’s going anyway, it would be great to purchase that data,” she said.

KCBS’ Matt Bigler Reports:

Garver noted that 85 percent of NASA’s budget already went to private companies. Indeed anyone who remembers Tang commercials from the 1970s realizes the commercialization of space is nothing new.

READ MORE: Pacific Tsunami Update: Waves Surge Onto Bay Area Beaches Following Huge Tonga Volcano Blast

The venture capitalists mingling and dreamers mingling at the annual conference Thursday were searching for unexpected commercial applications of NASA research.

James Downey with NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center pointed to a liquid metal glass developed in microgravity bounced off of hard surfaces “seemingly forever.”

“They’re now making them into golf clubs and other devices where you’d really like to have something that has a really good rebound when something hits it,” he said.

Downey said developers of medical implants also saw great promise in that material and similar alloys.

MORE NEWS: Bengals Stop Late Raiders Rally; Vegas One and Done in Playoffs

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)