Earth Day

Posted by Sam Churchill on

Today is Earth Day. John McConnell, Founder of Earth Day, says it was established as an annual event to deepen reverence and care for life on our planet.

Yahoo has ten ways to celebrate while Google lists resources. We at DailyWireless have always been interested in the Ocean. Broadband satellite platforms from Inmarsat, and others are about to revolutionize the science of monitoring on, above and below the surface of the Earth and the Oceans.

First, let’s go down. Where no one has gone before.

Scientists have — for the first time — drilled through the Earth’s crust to reach a fossil magma chamber lying 1.4 kilometers beneath the seafloor. An international team of scientists, supported by the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program, aboard the research drilling ship JOIDES Resolution (journals) has recovered black rocks known as gabbros from inside the ocean crust.

“It will help explain whether ocean crust is formed from one high-level magma chamber or from a series of stacked magma lenses.” The scientists hope to drill deeper yet at the site, although actual penetration into the mantle remains elusive.

Earth’s layers are in descending order: crust, mantle and core. The Earth’s crust is some 18 miles thick under the continents, but only 3 miles (5 kilometers) thick under the oceans. It’s fractured into more than a dozen major tectonic plates. It is where most earthquakes originate.

Nobody has ever broken through the crust and into the Earth’s mantle.

Project MoHole, begun in the 1950s, aimed to drill all the way through the crust to the Earth’s mantle, but never made it. “Finding the right place to drill was probably key to our success,” says geophysicist Doug Wilson, University of California, Santa Barbara.

“By sampling a complete section of the upper oceanic crust, we’ve achieved a goal scientists have pursued for over 40 years, since the days of Project MoHole,” says Damon Teagle, National Oceanography Centre, University of Southampton, UK, and co-chief scientist of the drilling expedition. “Our accomplishment will ultimately help science answer the important question, ‘how is new ocean crust formed?’”

The research team identified a 15-million-year-old region of the Pacific Ocean that formed when the East Pacific Rise was spreading at a “superfast” rate (more than 200 millimeters per year), faster than any mid-ocean ridge on Earth today. The tectonic plates currently move about the same speed as your fingernails grow.

The Ocean Drilling Program has been arguably the the world’s biggest, most productive Big Science project. It has been collecting data since 1968 and has revolutionized geology.

John Delany’s NEPTUNE project (left), is Wiring the Deep Seafloor. The plans call for more than 30 seafloor instrument stations and some 3200 kilometers of optical cable, connected to shore in Victoria, British Columbia, and Nedonna Beach, Oregon.

Stations will have several kilowatts of power and bandwidth in the gigabits per second.

Wireless floaters, like the Argo program, have begun populating the world ocean with 3,000 identical untethered floats.

Argo builds on other upper-ocean ocean observing networks. Every 10 days they rise to the surface, taking a string of water measurements along the way, and make radio contact with a satellite.

The idealized map (below) shows some 3,000 Argo floaters and how they are being distributed around the world’s oceans.

The Argos satellite transmits the data, plus the position of the float, to a data center where it’s put on the Web. Argos receivers are carried on-board NOAA series satellites. Currently 6 NOAA satellites are in service with Argos instruments on polar, sun-synchronous, circular orbits providing full global coverage.

Satellite tagging also tracks animals. Endangered birds can also be tracked by satellite using similar technology. Transmitters can fit in the palm of your hand (or smaller).

Satellite phone providers such as Globalstar and Iridium have enabled transmitters to become ever smaller. Terrastar and Inmarsat are launching a new generation of giant geosychronous satellites. Their spot beams may bring a whole new dimension to wireless communications at sea.

Already autonomous submarines and “flying subs” are being developed and tested. Oregon Iron Works built SeaLion, which stands for SEAL Insertion, Observation and Neutralization and is currently working on an autonomous flying boat, an Airdroppable High Speed, Low Signature Craft, “deployable from US military aircraft and missiles or rockets and spacecraft“.

It would combine the extremely long endurance times of a surface vehicle with high speed air delivery. Boeing’s Insitu Group, just up the Columbia River, across from Hood River, also has an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAVs) that will benefit from broadband, anywhere, all the time.

Cloud Cap Technology specializes in hardware and software for small unmanned aircraft like the Silver Fox (left).

Manta UAVs, also built by Advanced Ceramics Research, recently completed 18 data-gathering missions over the Maldives (right).

Three UAVs flew in a vertical formation measuring pollution levels above, below, and inside the clouds simultaneously. The robot airplanes weigh 11 pounds and carry sensors to measure solar radiation, particle size and concentration, turbulence, humidity, and temperature.

The Deep is not exclusively populated by Black Smokers and Extremophiles.

Lurking off Virginia are tens of thousands of mustard gas shells and hundreds of tons of radioactive waste in at least five ocean dump zones created by the Army decades ago.

Google Earth has brought the world home to everyone with a broadband connection while Vexcel’s flyby software combines synthetic aperture radar (SAR), LIDAR, maps, GIS and photogrammetry.

The NGA and NASA have their own political agendas for The National Map. Will they let Microsoft compete with thematic maps and data?

Will planet Earth be better off once it’s monitored 24/7 by UAVs, satellites, sensor networks and broadband everywhere? Who can say for sure. And who controls the data?

We may soon find out.

Additional DailyWireless articles include Oceanographic Wireless, Oceanographic Dead Zone, Balloon Relays, Telepresence Now!, Mars and Venus Missions, Tsunami Monitoring, Global Tsunami System Announced, RadarSats Image Tsunami, Tsunami Mapping, Mobile Satellite Access, Tsunami Warning Ideas, Off shore data links, the Global Grid, Earthquake First Responders, Tagging Photos with GPS, Off Shore Data Links, Inmarsat Spot Beam Satellite, Inmarsat Plans Domestic Satphone, FCC Approves Big Mobile Sat, Katrina Telecomunications Report, Coast Guard Network Tested, Global Satellite Providers Now Three, Satellite Wi-Fi, WiFi Routers for Cars, Unwired Transportation, UAVs Expand Role, Wireless Recon Airplanes, 24hr UAV Coverage, On Mount St Helens, and Tracking Santa.

Posted by Sam Churchill on Saturday, April 22nd, 2006 at 5:11 am .

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