The space program has provided earthlings with yet another spinoff technology, one that could save thousands of lives after a disaster.
It's called FINDER, an acronym for Finding Individuals for Disaster and Emergency Response. NASA and the Department of Homeland Security teamed up to develop the first-of-its-kind portable radar device to find victims trapped in rubble.
Using about one-100th the power of a cellphone, it can detect heartbeats and breathing as deep as 30 feet in crushed materials or behind 20 feet of solid concrete, and from a distance of 100 feet in open space. That means it can detect people even if they're unconscious. Current listening devices work only if the victim makes some kind of sound.
The elite international seach and rescue team Task Force One from Fairfax County, Virginia, is helping to test the FINDER tool, which is expected to be available for use next year.
FINDER is based on remote-sensing radar technology developed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, to monitor the location of spacecraft.