Technology designed for use in outer space just helped save lives on Earth.

After a 7.8 magnitude earthquake rocked Nepal on April 25, the United States sent two FINDER (Finding Individuals for Disaster and Emergency Response) prototypes for use in search and rescue efforts.

The prototypes did the job. An international team of rescuers using a FINDER device located four men trapped under 3 meters of rubble in the village of Chautara.

How did they find the men? The FINDER heard their heartbeats.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate developed FINDER together.

NASA technology plays many roles: driving exploration, protecting the lives of our astronauts and improving — even saving — the lives of people on Earth,” said David Miller, NASA’s chief technologist. “FINDER exemplifies how technology designed for space exploration has profound impacts to life on Earth.”

A girl walks by rubble in Chautara, where rescuers located survivors using FINDER. (© AP Images)

By using low-level microwave bursts, FINDER detects small motions with algorithms similar to those used in JPL technology that measures planetary orbits. FINDER’s software is extremely precise and can differentiate between the heartbeats of humans and animals in up to 10 meters of debris.

“The true test of any technology is how well it works in a real-life operational setting,” said Reginald Brothers, the Homeland Security under secretary for science and technology. “Of course, no one wants disasters to occur, but tools like this are designed to help when our worst nightmares do happen. I am proud that we were able to provide the tools to help rescue these four men.”

The United States actively assists in humanitarian operations in Nepal through USAID and the U.S. military.