The First Steps Toward Exploring Ocean Worlds
Named for the Ancient Greek god of the Underworld, the hadal zone is the pitch-black layer of our oceans spanning from 6,000 meters to its deepest point (over 11,000 meters). Historically, it has been extremely difficult to explore, with crushing atmospheric pressures requiring large and incredibly expensive vehicles that are few and far between. Four-and-a-half years ago, scientists from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and NASA Jet Propulsion Lab conceived of a lightweight, relatively cost-effective vehicle that could not just be replicated at scale, but could one day travel to outer space to explore the oceans of other planets. This is how they conceived of Orpheus, a 550-pound autonomous underwater vehicle about the size of a desk. Equipped with cameras, Orpheus will be able to open up exploration to the wider oceanographic community and answer fundamental questions about what is living in the deepest parts of our ocean. In September of 2018, the first sea trials of Orpheus took place from OceanX’s research vessel Alucia, in the waters off Cape Cod. There, crew members lowered the drone into the water before releasing the tether, allowing Orpheus to take its first solo route, the beginning of a vast journey to alien environments both on other planets and our own.
|LOCATION:||Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument|
|SCIENCE PARTNER:||Bloomberg Philanthropies, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, & NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory|
|RELEASE DATE:||February 2019|