A recent article on CNN describes how robotic technologies are being pushed to their maximum capabilities in responding to the BPGulf Oil Spill. It is no coincidence that I comment on this news piece immediately following my previous post on exploring the oceans of Europa, Jupiter’s watery moon.
Read the full CNN articlehere.
While the miracles that the ROV pilots and engineers are trying to sort out at depths in excess of 5000fsw are nothing short of commendable, we – as the most technologically sophisticated species on this planet – should be walking around with our heads sulking in our laps. Hundreds of billions upon billions of our tax dollars have been spent on space exploration, while our ‘innerspace’ has gone largely overlooked. To consider that there are real working concept robots that could dive beneath the ice on Europa which is about a billion kilometers away from this planet, yet we cannot routinely carry out working tasks in the extreme environments right here at home is mind boggling.
One must consider however, that sea/space analogs have been in use for some time. In these cases, vehicles and robotics required for space exploration have been tested here on Earth, beneath the oceans. Though, the priority is on evaluation for space purposes, not vice versa. Its as though we ‘shot for the moon’ and worked backwards, rather than be the turtle that wins the race.
Consider where we’d be if those billions upon billions spent over the past fifty years were focused on ocean exploration and related technologies that could be put to work immediately. By nature of human inquisition, these tools would have found a fit in space exploration in due time, and we would quite reasonably be further along in the exploration, exploitation, sustainable management, and settlement of both frontiers. Sadly, this is not the case, and now we struggle on both fronts.
All is not lost however. The BP Oil Spill, tragic as it may be, may indeed shed some light on the urgent need for innovation to not only meet current needs, but to also fuel new markets and their find scalable economies. The wealth produced from terra firma has driven global economics since the beginning of civilization. The wealth from oceana incognita is priceless.
Along the way, let’s not forget those transitional environments – depths and habitats in between those routinely accessed, and those that we severely struggle with at the continental margins. These areas are the gateway for exchange of life from coastal regions to the deep sea, and as a stepping stone, their study will provide a next foothold for human civilization and cultural evolution. We have the tools to work here already, but per usual – it will take some top-down decision making to place resources in the hands of us who work bottom-up to get to work.
To those reading, and beyond – now is the time, before our Blue Planet becomes black.