Deep-Sea Exploration is the Next Big Thing For Billionaires

By Veronique Greenwood | August 2, 2011 12:07 pm

sub
Richard Branson’s Virgin Oceanic sub is poised to be the first of this new fleet of commercial subs to start probing the depths—it should launch this year.

The deepest point in the ocean, the bottom of the Marianas Trench off the coast of Guam, is the scene of a new kind of space race: a deep-sea submarine race, undertaken by such private investors as director James Cameron, Virgin Group mogul Richard Branson, and Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt. Citing the excitement of exploration, all are involved in the construction of next-generation submersibles to plumb the trench and other deeps, taking advantage of price reductions in many components and the dearth of such innovation in the scientific community. Though designed to take the builders and other thrill-seekers to incredible depths, the ships are by and large not intended to be one-shot wonders, William J. Broad of the NYTimes reports:

“It’s not a publicity stunt,” [one builder] said of the planning effort. “We’re commercial vehicle builders. We want a product that can be used repeatedly without any difficulty — one that is very elegant, very safe and very competitive.”

That’s an improvement on the Space Shuttle, many would say. And several builders have indicated that scientific research may get to ride on billionaire builders’ coattails:

[Cameron] added that he was talking to oceanic institutes about developing long-term relationships for use of the submersible.

“We’ve gotten a pretty resounding response from the science community,” he said, “because they have such limited funding and access to these deep environments.”

(Read more at the NYTimes.)

Image courtesy of Virgin Oceanic

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Living World, Technology
  • http://ysgitdiary.blogspot.com Yordan Georgiev

    Which points to the thought that the current system for funding research and science could be improved with such public-private initiatives. The technology could help advance this further – imagine the data which could be collected automatically from sensors on those vehicles and later on processed by the scientific community.

  • Henry VIII

    “Citing the excitement of exploration, all are involved in the construction of next-generation submersibles to plumb the trench and other deeps, taking advantage of price reductions in many components and the dearth of such innovation in the scientific community.”

    Perhaps if we were better funded, there wouldn’t be a ‘dearth’ in the scientific community. I guess our mistake was in conducting research instead of chauffeuring ‘thrill-seekers’. Obviously that’s where the money is.

  • Cathy L Williams

    I really enjoyed reading your article there could of been more of it.

  • Sam

    I listened to to the Skeptics guide to the universe today (a little later than normal due to my busy schedual) and there was an interview with Bill Nye, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Nye who highlighted this, albeit very briefly. Interesting stuff and the private companies seem to be exploiting many opportunities at the moment. SGU is a great podcast and the latest one with this interview can be found here: http://hw.libsyn.com/p/4/e/4/4e4d88133fa1baaf/skepticast2011-07-27.mp3?sid=a9e3d5c52f3abf8a566cfe2ab03acf4e&l_sid=19482&l_eid=&l_mid=2669173

    Sam

  • http://www.frontsidebus.net/ Front Side Bus

    Kind of interesting that we haven’t seen this yet. I guess the technology just wasn’t there yet.

  • http://www.Vending-LA.com VendingLa

    On the funding issue, if we sold more rides to billionaires and sold naming rights to the scientific vehicles (shuttles, space station, etc.) think of how many more science projects/missions could be done! I for one do not have a problem with American Airlines paying for patches on astronauts space suits (like racecar drivers?).
    Umm…..we are supposed to be a capitalist country…..Duh?

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