The oceans cover approximately 70% of Earth's surface and play a crucial part in sustaining life on our planet. However, our understanding of the ocean remains limited despite its significant role.
Recently, there's been a claim online stating the initial role of NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) in ocean exploration. In order to assert the truth behind this rumor, this thread reviews the timeline of ocean exploration, NASA's mission, and the association between these two elements.
This Slogging thread by Mónica Freitas occurred in slogging's official #space channel, and has been edited for readability.
Why has NASA stopped exploring the oceans?
The oceans cover approximately 70% of Earth's surface and play a crucial part in sustaining life on our planet, from air and food supply to weather and climate patterns. Yet, despite its colossal function, our understanding of the ocean remains limited.
Ocean exploration is essential to effective management, conservation, regulation and usage of its resources sustainably, which are vital to our lives and economy. In addition, ocean exploration can lead us to a whole new world of opportunities and scientific developments from medical therapies and vaccines, food, energy, and technology. Moreover, this study fosters a better understanding of earthquakes, tsunamis, and other natural phenomenons, helping us develop a better way to cope with them once they surface.
Ocean exploration has been around since 5000 BC when we first began to dive for food and build the first sailing vessels. As ship construction techniques advanced, we ventured farther out to sea, explored new lands, and moved to diving technology, which resulted in the first submarines. As we mapped the ocean floor, we finally realized the complexity of this water mass. Below, find a brief timeline of ocean exploration:
5000 BC - 1 BC: Ocean exploration begins with the first ocean diving and sailing vessels. In the following years, we get the first diving bells and coastal maps.
1 AD - 1600: As sailing vessels become more advanced, explorers venture farther from shore, discovering new lands and traveling around the world. Diving technology continues to advance during this time.
1601 - 1800: During the 1600s and 1700s, deep-diving becomes possible with the development of diving suits and helmets. The first submarine was invented.
1801 - 1900: Technological advances in the 1800s enabled the development of more advanced diving equipment, including the first scuba. Expeditions begin to discover the existence of deep-sea life.
1901 - 1950: The 1900s saw the first maps of the ocean floor and the first deep ocean dives. Jacques Cousteau invents the Aqua-Lung, and a prehistoric fish long thought to be extinct is found alive on the ocean floor.
1951 - 1970: During this period ocean laboratories evolved, the deepest ocean dive took place (1960) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) was established (1970) to help with ocean research.
1971 - Present: After 1970, there were many exciting findings incluing the discovery of deep-sea hydrothermal vents, the wreck of the Titanic, and the first video of a live giant squid in the ocean.
In short, we've come a long way from the primitive sailing vessels we used to rely on. From fishing to traveling and oil extraction, humankind now occupies the seas as much as the earth. And yet, there is still so much to be explored.
Before getting into the role of NASA in ocean exploration, here are ten ocean facts to relay their immenseness and importance:
Did you know these facts?
Now, the time for our primary question: why has NASA stopped exploring the oceans? This question was brought to light after a TikTok video from memes_to_click asserts NASA's original mission as oceans exploration. This statement left many people wondering the truth behind this claim and, if there was any truth in it, the reason behind NASA's change in the realm of exploration.
NASA, or the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, is an independent agency of the United States federal government invested in space research. The agency opened in 1958 and was developed according to the following objectives:
These objectives indicate that NASA's purpose was not to explore oceans but to explore space and the atmosphere. Yet, did NASA ever explore the ocean?
The answer is yes but not directly. NASA partnered up with other agencies to monitor gravitational anomalies (which involved the oceans) and the salinity of Earth’s oceans, and how salt moved around the planet. However, these explorations were done from space, thus discrediting the video's claim.
With this said, one last question remains: why do so much of the oceans remain unexplored? The answer is the absolute inaccessibility of parts of the world’s oceans. The deeper one goes down into the sea, the colder and darker it gets and the more pressure you feel. These conditions make it hard to access the deepest parts of the ocean.