Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

XPrize to Give $7 Million for Robots to Explore the Deepest Sea

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

XPrize to Give $7 Million for Robots to Explore the Deepest Sea

Article excerpt

Oceans cover more than two-thirds of our planet, yet we know relatively little about them. In fact, points out the X Prize Foundation, we know more about the surface of Mars than about the depths of our own planet.

This is why on Monday the foundation that aims to incentivize technological innovation around the globe launched a three-year challenge to teams that can produce robots that will map the seafloor, and to those that can detect life in deepest reaches of the sea.

These technologies could revolutionize deep-sea exploration, which has been limited, the X Prize explains, by the high cost and extreme physical challenges associated with the deep ocean, where explorers would have to contend with frigid temperatures, no light whatsoever, and water pressure that's "the equivalent of one person trying to support 50 jumbo jets," according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The foundation is offering $7 million in prizes to teams whose robots can withstand these challenges to quickly, affordably, and safely map the ocean floor so human beings can begin to understand what is happening deep below the sea.

"The answers to some of humanity's oldest questions, or the cures to our most deadly diseases, could be waiting to be discovered," says a motivational narrator in a short video announcing the prize, which is mostly backed by Royal Dutch Shell, with $1 million donated by NOAA for teams that can build sensors that can detect life or other objects deep underwater.

"In all of our centuries of exploring, we've barely scratched the surface of one of the most fascinating places in the universe," the video narrator says. A place that feeds more than 2 billion people and produces half of our oxygen, according to the X Prize Foundation, which counts luminaries such as James Cameron, Arianna Huffington, and Elon Musk among its board members. …

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