Technology that NASA developed to detect alien life is paying off right here on Earth. Rescue workers in Nepal recently used the FINDER radar machine to locate and save four men trapped under as much as 10 feet of bricks, mud and other debris caused by the devastating earthquake that recently hit the country.
The men had been trapped beneath the rubble for days in the hard-hit village of Chautara. Using FINDER, operators were able to detect two heartbeats beneath each of two different collapsed structures, allowing the rescue workers to find and save the men.
FINDER (Finding Individuals for Disaster and Emergency Response) is a radar machine that sends a continuous microwave signal through the rubble, and can detect a human’s breathing or heartbeat (and distinguish it from the movement of an animal).
NASA is now working on plans to help more first responders get access to FINDER machines, so they can use the tool to save lives. This is the first time FINDER has been used in a real-life emergency.
The technology used in the FINDER machine was originally created by NASA to find life on other planets.
FINDER uses advanced data processing systems to pick out faint signals. The microwave radar technology is sensitive enough to distinguish the unique signature of a human's breathing pattern and heartbeat from other living creatures. The advantage of this technology is in allowing first responders to quickly ascertain if a living victim is present in the debris. The technology is sensitive enough that victims, whether conscious or not, can easily be detected, which helps responders decide the most efficient course of action.
This isn't the first time the space agency has created a gadget that's useful on our planet.
“NASA technology plays many roles: driving exploration, protecting the lives of our astronauts and improving—even saving—the lives of people on Earth,” David Miller, NASA’s chief technologist, said in a press statement. “FINDER exemplifies how technology designed for space exploration has profound impacts to life on Earth.”
In the past, NASA has developed all sorts of technology that has proven useful on Earth like land mine-removal techniques, firefighting tools and water-purification gadgets.