NASA Podcasts

Saved By A Weather Satellite
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Narrator: When weather struck…

Dennis Clements: The Gloria A Dios was violently rolled over. I was caught by my right knee and dragged under the surface of the Atlantic. I saw her sail away and leave me there and I was alone in the dark in the storm. Two hundred and fifty mile off shore I could feel the heat just draining out of me.

Narrator: His only chance for survival, was a signal sent to space just before he was dragged under water. Dennis’s emergency beacon activated and transmitted a distress signal triggering a chain reaction into an intricate Search And Rescue Satellite-Aided Tracking System that has been saving lives since 1982. NASA, NOAA, the U.S. Air Force, and the U.S. Coast Guard are working together to eliminate this search, out of search and rescue to reduce the amount of time to reach victims in distress.

David Affens, NASA Search and Rescue Mission Manager: The reality is, is that there’ve been over twenty seven thousand people saved by this system, many of which were been done by the GOES satellites.

Narrator: The GOES weather satellites have the ability to constantly oversee a large area of the Earth, and send real time data to users.

Mickey Fitzmaurice, NOAA SARSAT Systems Engineer: Every country that can see the GOES satellite is able to pick up the distress down link.

George Theodorakos, NASA SAR Mission Chief Staff Engineer: The beacon goes of and sends a message out to whoever can hear it. A GOES satellite if it’s in view of the beacon will see it and then it’ll take that message and just relay it, repeat it back down to the ground.

Denis Clements: The EPIRB I had was an older model, and so it did not encrypt a GPS location into the signal.

David Affens, NASA Search and Rescue Mission Manager: If the distress is from an old beacon, which does not transmit its own location, then the GOES satellites provide an immediate alert. Then you wait until the POES satellite flies over and gives you the location.

Mickey Fitsmaurice, NOAA SARSAT Systems Engineer: These beacons can be encoded with GPS location and that’s been an advancement over the last fifteen years. This allows us to not only speed up the rescue coordination effort but the chances of survival for someone in a distressed environment is pretty significant.

Narrator: Purchasing and registering a beacon was critical in saving Deniss’ life.

Lt. Commander Kathy Niles, US Coast Guard SARSAT Liaison Officer: That information that’s coming from, directly from the distress beacon to the satellites is the one key link that we have to actually find out where something is happening and hopefully again if the beacon is registered, tells us who that beacon belongs to.

Narrator: Technology developed by NASA and operated by NOAA led to a quick coast guard response and a challenging navy rescue.

Dennis Clements: That diver came down in there navy, U.S. Navy. He came down into that storm for me, that is the bravest thing I’ve ever seen anybody do in my life. The helicopter took me to the deck of the Eisenhower; I’d been cold and wet for four days, didn’t have any shoes but I was sure glad to be there.

David Affens, NASA Search and Rescue Mission Manager: People take for granted the risks the rescue personnel, so anything we can do to minimize the area that they have to cover, the amount of hours they have to fly, is better for them.

Narrator: A new system called the Distress Alerting Satellite System or DASS is currently being tested successfully at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.

David Affens, NASA Search and Rescue Mission Manager: The Distress Alerting System will carry a search and rescue repeater on a complete constellation of satellites. In the case that the GPS systems that means twenty-four satellites will be lessening for victims all over the surface of the Earth.

Lt. Commander Kathy Niles, US Coast Guard SARSAT Liaison Officer: With the new system the information that we get will be quicker, it will be more accurate from the instant that there is a distress happening out there.

Narrator: Once the system is fully operational the ultimate goal of eliminating the search out of search and rescue will be accomplished.

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