Schmidt Ocean Institute’s R/V Falkor Cruise: Seeking Space Rocks
EEPS science communications specialist Linda Welzenbach recently coordinated, documented and chronicled a unique planetary science exploratory expedition. Scientists from NOAA , Case Western Reserve University, NASA Johnson Space Center, Goddard Space Flight Center, University of Maryland, College Park and Harvard University (the latter three are part of a consortium called the Laboratory for Agnostic Biosignatures-LAB) were granted a week aboard Schmidt Ocean Institute’s R/V Falkor to look for meteorites on the seafloor within the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary.
The Schmidt Ocean Institute (SOI), founded in 2009 by Eric and Wendy Schmidt, enables technologically-advanced ocean exploration. Using a variety of integrated state-of-the-art remote sensing systems onboard the R/V Falkor, SOI provides the opportunity through an application and review process, for multidisciplinary international science collaborators to explore some of the world’s most remote locations. Rice collaborated with SOI in 2012 on the Mapping South Texas Banks Cruise. In addition, Dr. Cin-Ty Lee, faculty and current Chair of EEPS, works with SOI as an external expert during the proposal review process.
What makes the Schmidt Ocean Institute unique among other independent science exploration organizations is that supports high-risk oceanographic research as well as expeditions aimed at developing and testing innovative oceanographic technologies, practices, and analytical methods. The seafloor search for meteorites is certainly not the highest-risk research activity among many of SOI’s missions, but this effort would test team dynamics and the flexibility of strategies and technologies that would not only find meteorites from a world previously considered inaccessible, but also help scientists better understand the challenges of exploring other worlds. Especially those which might support life.