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Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before. – Star Trek


While The Atlantis space shuttle and the International Space Station (ISS) are headed for retirement, only DOD contractors seem to have gone where no one has gone before, banking some quarter of a trillion dollars thanks to the largess of taxpayers.

From now on commercial contractors such as the SpaceX Dragon, Boeing’s CST-100, the New Shepard by Jeff Bezo’s Blue Origin, and the Dream Chaser by Sierra Nevada Corporation will supply the space station. The free ride is over.

The Square Kilometre Array is going where no one has gone before. It will be the world’s premier imaging and surveying telescope.

A global collaboration of 20 countries, using thousands of radio telescopes over a one square kilometre, it aims to provide answers to fundamental questions about origin and evolution of the Universe. Three antenna types will be used by the SKA to provide continuous frequency coverage from 70 MHz to 10 GHz. The final decision on the site will be made in 2012. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2016 with initial observations by 2019.

Mining asteroids is the new thrust of the space program. But the highest concentration of rare-earth elements ever found was just discovered in a 1-square-kilometre area on the ocean floor near Hawaii. Rare-earth elements are used in cellphones and other devices. China currently produces some 97% of world supply, but has recently put stringent caps on the amount available for export. This new concentration holds the equivalent to one-fifth of current annual demand.

The Atlantis, the last shuttle now in space, was named after RV Atlantis, a Woods Hole sailing ship.

Today, R/V Atlantis (T-AGOR-25) supports the deep-diving three-person submersible Alvin for cutting edge science beneath the ocean.

The Challenger expedition of 1872–76 was a scientific exercise that made many discoveries to lay the foundation of oceanography. The global expedition was named after the mother vessel, HMS Challenger. The Space Shuttle Challenger completed nine missions before breaking apart 73 seconds after the launch of its tenth mission.

We know more about the surfaces of Mars and the Moon than we do about our own ocean floor. Only a tiny fraction of our oceans have ever been explored. The Ocean Observatories Initiative aims to change all that.

Ocean Observatories will be linked to the world via 200 K volt power and 10 Gigabit optical fiber. Oceanographer John Delany expects data will start flowing from the ocean floor by 2013 (pdf). It’s part of a global initiative.

Bill Chadwick and Bob Embley are taking the Alvin down for the NOAA/VENTS program to study recent volcanic eruptions. The Axial volcano stands 3,600 ft high, 4,600 ft down, and 300 miles west of Cannon Beach, Oregon.

Chadwick is developing new seafloor instruments to detect and monitor volcanic eruptions on the Juan de Fuca and Gorda Ridges. The $200 million, underwater observatory is being built with some 30 underwater nodes, carrying power and Gigabit internet access, for live HD cameras, autonomous side looking sonar robots, rumbleometers and dozens of sophisticated intruments. They’ll observe life in extreme environments 24/7, as well as their chemical and physical environment.

A large reservoir of seawater has been found under the ocean floor in Earth’s crust.

It is thought to be the largest habitat on Earth.

Keir Becker and Andrew Fisher installed a sub-surface observatory technology known as CORK for undisturbed observations and sampling of life forms inside Earth’s crust. Their mission is to explore life beneath the seafloor and make transformative discoveries that advance science and benefit society.

They are bringing back their new life forms and will dock in Astoria, Oregon this Thursday, aboard Atlantis.

In honor of World Oceans Day, Google collaborated with Columbia University to add their Global Multi-Resolution Topography (GMRT) so you can now explore half the ocean area that has ever been mapped, an area larger than North America.

The only manned descent to the deepest spot on Earth, the 11,000m (36,089ft) Challenger Deep in the Mariannas Trench, was by Trieste in 1960, manned by Don Walsh and Jacques Piccard. This was followed by the unmanned ROVs, first the Japanese Kaiko in 1995, then the US Nereus in 2009. Russian aquanaut Artur Chilingarov, who placed his country’s flag 14,000ft beneath the Arctic icecap, hopes to snatch the crown from Trieste in a manned Mir submersible by 2012.

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