Subscribe to our free daily newsletters
  Space Industry and Business News  

Subscribe to our free daily newsletters

Teen Sailor Meets NASA Team That Helped Saved Her Life

Abby Sunderland, left, gets a "Science On a Sphere" demonstration from Goddard's chief scientist, Dr. Jim Garvin. Credit: NASA Goddard/Bill Hrybyk
by Staff Writers
Greenbelt MD (SPX) Oct 28, 2010
It has been almost six months since 16-year-old Abby Sunderland's 40-foot vessel, Wild Eyes, was damaged in a storm, leaving her stranded in the middle of the Indian Ocean. But now, she finally got a chance to meet the people who developed the technology used to save her life.

Abby visited NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., on Oct. 25 to meet Search and Rescue Manager Dave Affens and a team of engineers. He and his team developed the Search and Rescue Satellite (SARSAT) technologies that contributed to her rescue.

"Without NASA technology, she may have lost her life," Affens said. "This case was more interesting than most because we contributed to every aspect of it.

"The system is great, super actually," Sunderland said about the search-and-rescue technology that pinpointed her exact location during the aggressive storm.

After giving a presentation about her extraordinary journey from Marina Del Ray, Calif., to her dismasting 2,000 miles from the nearest land, Sunderland took questions from the engineering team and a group of congressional staffers, who were also in attendance, regarding the moments that lead up to her rescue and the safety measures and devices she used during her ordeal.

In addition, Affens explained in detail to Sunderland and the group how SARSAT technology operates.

We developed the concept of detecting distress signals by the satellite, relaying it to the ground stations where the locations were calculated," Affens explained. "We then launched the distress-detection device on a NOAA weather satellite, tested the concept, and approved the system for operational use.

Currently, the SARSAT system has saved more than 205 lives in the United States this year alone. However, Affens and his team are developing new technology that will detect distress signals in less than five minutes, a process made possible by placing repeater technology on the Air Force's network of Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites.

The current system, which places the technology on the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite or GOES (which alerts) and the Polar Operational Environmental Satellite or POES (which provides the location of the distressed) could take up to an hour or more depending on the location of the satellite.

Sunderland's signal reached an Indian satellite (INSAT) and two NOAA weather satellites that were launched by NASA and used NASA technology to pinpoint her location less than an hour later.

"It was a real surprise when the airbus flew over me. I wasn't expecting it, I was expecting it to be weeks," she said about the amount of time it took for her rescue to begin. "When you set off your beacon, you know someone is going to hear you, but I wasn't sure if I was going to be helped. But I don't think it could have been done any faster," she added.

Also critical to her rescue was a small, yellow device that Microwave Monolithics Inc. (MMInc.) in Simi Valley, Calif., had developed under a NASA Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program award.

The MicroPLB Type GXL handheld device - about the size of a BlackBerry - emitted an emergency distress signal picked up by a SARSAT satellite orbiting 22,500 miles up in space.

The satellite also was equipped with NASA-developed repeater technology that then relayed the signal to the United States via the international satellite-aided search and rescue network now comprised of 40 participating nations.

The company's president, Daniel Ch'en, had given Sunderland the beacon before she attempted to sail the world solo and non-stop, a record previously held by her older brother, Zac.

"I wasn't expecting her to use it, and I was hoping she wouldn't have to, but I knew this would be the last line of safety [if needed]," he added.

The company originally developed the device for the U.S. government. It is the only sub-miniature PLB certified by the international satellite-based search and rescue community.

It operates for a minimum of 48 hours after the user activates the emergency signal. These extra hours are vital given that most rescue teams cannot reach the individual until after a storm subsides, which can be more than a day or two.

In Sunderland's case, the boat sent to rescue her arrived two days after she had activated her device. Most PLBs, in general, are not made for 48-hour operation.

Because Sunderland used the device correctly and made a point to register the beacon with NOAA (adding personal and contact information), the U.S. Coast Guard's Pacific Area Command in Alameda, Calif., was able to contact her parents in less than 10 minutes.

"We couldn't ask for a better scenario," said U.S. Coast Guard's Adolfo Viezca, also in attendance. "When beacons aren't registered and I'm on the receiving end, I don't know who you are, where you are and I end up with a quagmire."

Sunderland isn't discouraged by her ordeal. She still plans on sailing the world solo, carrying the beacon and relying on NASA technology of course. "Overall, it's the best experience of my life," she said.

After meeting with Affens and his team, Sunderland was able to enjoy the other revolutionary science and technological developments at Goddard. Center Director Rob Strain presented her with a glass globe with an image of the Hubble Space Telescope emblazoned inside as a keepsake.

In addition to enjoying the Visitors Center exhibits, including the Science On a Sphere globe, Sunderland visited the Earth Science and LRO control centers, and the Spacecraft Test and Integration Facilities.

Share This Article With Planet Earth DiggDigg RedditReddit
YahooMyWebYahooMyWeb GoogleGoogle FacebookFacebook

Related Links
NASA Search and Rescue Office
International System for Search and Rescue
Earth Observation News - Suppiliers, Technology and Application

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

Italy slaps restrictions on Google's Street View
Rome (AFP) Oct 25, 2010
Italy's privacy regulator on Monday announced restrictions on Google's Street View mapping service, echoing privacy concerns aired elsewhere in Europe. Google cars must now "be clearly identifiable by signs and stickers" indicating they will be taking pictures for Street View, the regulator said in a statement. Google must also publish on its website the names of the areas it intends to ... read more

Minds control computers in study

Plant-Based Plastics Not Necessarily Greener Than Oil-Based Relatives

Two Dissimilar Materials Display Unexpected Magnetism

Converting Acid Rain Chemicals Into Useful Products

Sagem Prime Contractor For RIF-NG New-Gen Soldier Info Network

First MEADS Intra-Fire Unit Communications Hardware Delivered

Raytheon Reaches Milestone In Naval SATCOM Program

Boeing Receives Secure Messaging Technology Contract Extension from US Army

New Intelsat Satellite Delivered To Launch Base

Boeing Ships LightSquared's SkyTerra One Mobile ComSat To Launch Site

Hylas-1 Satellite Readied For Launch From European Spaceport

ILS Proton Successfully Launches XM-5 Satellite

'Exorbitant' price talk for Galileo maps way off beam: EU

Russia To Launch 8 Glonass Navigation Satellites In 2011-2013

S.Africa implants GPS chips in rhino horns to fight poaching

Rhinos equipped with GPS tracking

NASA Releases Report About Australia Balloon Mishap

Aeromexico Operates Its First "Green Flight"

India mulls Boeing Globemaster III deal

Boeing Projects 90 Billion Dollar Commercial Airplanes Market In Russia And CIS

Intel to open billion-dollar chip plant in Vietnam

Intel to invest up to 8 billion dollars in US chip plants

Intel posts three billion dollar quarterly net profit

Motorola sues Apple for patent infringement

Introducing The A-Train

Teen Sailor Meets NASA Team That Helped Saved Her Life

Modeling The Fiery Past And Future Of Planet Earth

Italy slaps restrictions on Google's Street View

South Africa in race against toxic mine water threat

Chinese city offers cash for cigarette butts

Microbes May Consume Far More Oil-Spill Waste Than Earlier Thought

Chinese iPhone workers poisoned by chemical: report

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2010 - SpaceDaily. AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by SpaceDaily on any Web page published or hosted by SpaceDaily. Privacy Statement