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Teen Sailor Meets Nasa Team That Helped Save Her Life

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MicroPLB type GXL beacon

MicroPLB Type GXL handheld device used to transmit distress signals, similar to the one Abby Sunderland was given by Microwave Monolithics, Inc. before her journey.

NASA Goddard / Rebecca Roth

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 today, 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 led 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.

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