Is There an Awesome NASA Spinoff in Your Home?

Have you heard of NASA Spinoffs? When Congress established NASA in 1958, it required the space agency to share information about its discoveries. They also gave NASA the go-ahead to patent inventions and help businesses develop commercial uses for them. The results are amazing. Thousands of devices started because of research for space vehicles or exploration. Is there an awesome NASA Spinoff in your home? Maybe.

Image of the Hubble Telescope in space one of the many satellites NASA tracks and led to the possibility of awesome NASA spinoffs being in your home.


Since 1976, NASA has published Spinoff a publication that features an average of 50 of these technologies. Technologies that range from ear thermometers to Ventricular assist devices to water purification systems and much more.

Research for cutting-edge technologies often takes years and many, many dollars. Small businesses often could invest the time but rarely had the funds.

In the 1980s, the Small Business Administration began a funding project to promote development of innovative technologies. Their idea was that both government agencies and private industry would benefit from the research and development.

Small businesses apply for funds, then develop technology that’s of interest to NASA. The small company can then use what they learned to develop products for their company. It’s a win-win. And boy have we won some cool tech. One such awesome piece of technology (that you won’t find in your home) is FINDER.

Detecting Heartbeats Remotely

NASA often must deal with weak signals. Slight movements of a satellite might result from gravity fluctuations. NASA needs to know about those movements to keep the satellite in the proper position and to understand the effects of gravity.

In the early 2000s,  the Department of Homeland Security’s First Responders Group’s (FRG) R-Tech division wanted to know if the system NASA used could remotely detect human vital signs. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) developed FINDER (Finding Individuals for Disaster and Emergency Response). FINDER picks out faint but correlating movements of human breathing and heartbeats.

R4 Inc., in Edgewood Maryland licensed FINDER. And spent the next couple of years developing it for first responders to use in real-world situations.

Real-World Test

In April 2015, Nepal suffered severe damage from a 7.8-magnitude earthquake. One of R4’s founders took two FINDER prototypes to Nepal. The devices found four victims trapped under as much as ten feet of rubble. All four men survived.

The quake destroyed thousands of buildings, caused landslides, and avalanches. Approximately 9,000 people died, 22,000 were injured, and 3.5 million left homeless.

Portable & Significant

The technology, more formally known as laser Doppler vibrometer, is a portable, suitcase-sized device now manufactured by SpecOps Group and R4.

Trajectory Magazine

The significance of this device is that it only detects people who are alive. Search and rescue dogs locate the living and dead. This device saves time, allows rescuers to focus on the living, and allows them evaluate the heart rate and prioritize which person needs rescued first.

As of 2017, FINDER had been available commercially for about three years. In that time, they had sold 166 units. They sold many to international urban search and rescue teams. 

NASA More Than A Space Agency

NASA’s mandate to help business create and use technology is one more reason to support NASA. Although slow-to-start, NASA has become an advocate for children and women and minorities to get education in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

More Awesome Spinoffs To Come

Had you heard about NASA Spinoffs before? FINDER is only one of the amazing things developed from technologies used in or needed for space exploration. Is there an awesome NASA Spinoff in your home? Stay tuned for future posts!.

Quotes on Technology and Science Fiction

Is science fiction predictive? Does it lead to advances in technology? Read these quotes on technology and science fiction and see what you think.

Public domain image of earth from the International Space Station. Did science fiction predict our going to space? Read these quotes on technology and science fiction and see what you think.


“Progress isn’t made by early risers. It’s made by lazy men trying to find easier ways to do something.” ~Robert A. Heinlein

Time travel used to be thought of as just science fiction, but Einstein’s general theory of relativity allows for the possibility that we could warp space-time so much that you could go off in a rocket and return before you set out.

~Stephen Hawking

New Technologies

“Everything is becoming science fiction. From the margins of an almost invisible literature has sprung the intact reality of the 20th century.” J. G. Ballard, “Fictions of Every Kind”

In science fiction, we dream. In order to colonize in space, to rebuild our cities, which are so far out of whack, to tackle any number of problems, we must imagine the future, including the new technologies that are required.

~Ray Bradbury, Playboy, 1996

“There’s more to research than just looking up facts. Eventually, you have to make subjective calls. If you’re writing a science fiction novel, there’s probably some speculative technology in it. You’ll have to decide how to project existing technology forward in a plausible way.” ~Andy Weir

New technologies are rapidly giving rise to unprecedented methods of warfare. Innovations that yesterday were science fiction could cause catastrophe tomorrow, including nanotechnologies, combat robots, and laser weapons.

~Peter Maurer

“The Jetsons had them in the 1960s. They were the defining element of ‘Knight Rider’ in the 1980s: cars that drive themselves. Self-driving cars appear in countless science fiction movies. By Hollywood standards, they are so normal we don’t even notice them. But in real life, they still don’t exist. What if you could buy one today?” Sebastian Thrun

Science Fiction vs Fact

Science fiction is any idea that occurs in the head and doesn’t exist yet, but soon will, and will change everything for everybody, and nothing will ever be the same again. As soon as you have an idea that changes some small part of the world you are writing science fiction. It is always the art of the possible, never the impossible.

~Ray Bradbury, The Paris Review, spring 2010

There’s two tiers of science fiction: the McDonalds sci-fi like Star Trek, where they have an adventure and solve it before the last commercial, and there are books that once you’ve read, you never look at the world the same way again. ~David Gerrold

Everything’s science fiction until someone makes it science fact.

~Marie Lu, Warcross

These quotes on technology and science fiction are shared to give a little inspiration and a little hope. Somewhere, someone is writing (or has written) a story that suggests a possibility that isn’t real—yet. Someone, somewhere, has read a story and is working on the next piece of technology that will change our world for the better.