While many scientists are looking to the stars for exploration, experts at the United Kingdom’s DEEP Research Labs are setting up habitable research stations as much as 656 feet under the sea.
It’s part of a module-based habitat system in development called Sentinel that is intended to be open to public signup for various science research projects by 2027, according to a story by Interesting Engineering, which said the project was like “an International Space Station for the oceans.”
Touted as a haven for underwater research, the habitat is also going to be a case study in sustainability and extended stays (for about a month) deep in the sea. The tech is designed to accommodate “six-crew, short-term deployments” up to “50-crew … semi-permanent research stations.”
Sentinel designers, however, said safety is a priority. So, barring a megalodon attack, the habitat should be an abode for research, learning, and archaeology. The goal is to form partnerships with universities and multiple nations as part of the learning experience — and surely hope they can get along better than the Sealab crew.
“DEEP represents to me the best chance we’ll ever have for returning habitats to the sea floor, for peaceful purposes. Certainly, within my lifetime,” John Clarke, the former head of the U.S. Naval Experimental Diving Unit, said, as quoted on DEEP’s website.
Sentinels are claimed to last for 20 years, providing decades of habitat for research to be based from, DEEP leaders said. Innovative Engineering reported that DEEP has started a training program to keep the pipeline full of expert divers. They will transport the modules below the surface, as well as perform maintenance once they are set up.
The modular systems are built to be “endlessly configurable” and “completely customizable,” according to DEEP. A video clip on X, formerly known as Twitter, shows a digital rendering of the habitat. Numerous cylinder-shaped, interconnected modules are shown with submarines around them.
Hello from DEEP HQ! Today, we emerge from stealth and over the next few weeks we’ll be sharing more of what we have in store for the world of marine technology and underwater exploration.
We’re especially thrilled to share more about our groundbreaking Sentinel system! pic.twitter.com/XW3jrkSdcW
— DEEP (@UnumSumusMare) September 4, 2023
The interior looks like a combination of the USS Enterprise and a modern camper. Efficient design concepts have needed amenities, including a bathroom with a closed-loop, bio-reactor waste system that’s in development, according to the designers. There are even “moonpools” for “diving excursions” and labs for research, per DEEP.
Sentinels are planned to have power systems utilizing “micro-grid architecture.” A satellite communications buoy will provide contact with land-dwellers.
Surface independence is one of the company’s design tenets. So, DEEP experts said that Sentinels won’t need an expensive support ship floating overhead. They’ll have what they need below for long-term operations.
What’s more, underwater living could provide lessons for those of us still pining for the stars. The environment makes for a great training ground for space missions, the experts reported.
“DEEP is leading the way in development and expansion of novel approaches for a sustained intersection of deep sea and humanity,” Dawn Kernagis, a crew member of NASA’s Neemo XXI undersea mission, said on DEEP’s website.
The vision is to learn more about our underwater world, the continental shelves, and other wonders, while not impacting them, according to DEEP.
“We love our planet and we adore our oceans. That’s why all of our products are designed with longevity and autonomy as a core principle, and why our products are designed to leave as close to no impact on the sea-bed as possible,” the project’s website states.
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