2021 Technology Demonstration

Expedition Features

The essays below will help you to understand the goals and objectives of the mission and provide additional context and information about the places being explored and the science, tools, and technologies being used.

  • Expedition Plan

    By Mike White & Rachel Gulbraa

    From May 14-27, 2021 NOAA Ocean Exploration will lead the 2021 Technology Demonstration on NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer from Cape Canaveral, Florida, to Norfolk, Virginia. The expedition provides an opportunity to test several technologies that will allow the ocean exploration community to explore deeper, farther, and more comprehensively than previously possible. Expeditions like this are vital for the advancement of ocean exploration technologies that will benefit partners and the broader field of ocean exploration alike in our collective mission to explore, map, and understand the vast ocean realm.

    Read more
  • Live Interaction Dives Into a Fictional Ocean to Learn About A Real One (Ours)

    by Emily Crum

    On May 13, two members of the 2021 Technology Demonstration expedition team, NOAA Ocean Exploration expedition coordinator Michael White and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution research engineer Casey Machado, joined Cecilia D'Anastasio, a reporter with WIRED Games, for a live event to explore the ocean on Planet 4546B.

    Read more
  • Terrain Relative Navigation: From Mars to the Deep Sea

    by Ken Kostel

    By now, just about everyone is aware of, and in some way impacted by, the Global Positioning System, or GPS. But the satellites that allow us to find our location almost anywhere on the planet to within inches is limited to just that — this planet. It’s also only useful above water, which we’ll get to in a moment.

    The lack of GPS on Mars forced NASA engineers to come up with a new method of wayfinding to support critical activities during the current Mars 2020 mission. Instead of signals from satellites in orbit, they used features on the surface of the planet as the basis of a vision-based system known as Terrain Relative Navigation.

    Read more
  • Ocean Worlds

    by Tim Shank, Ph.D.

    For a long time, planetary scientists thought Earth’s ocean was unique in the solar system. After all, Earth is the only planet that orbits our sun in the “Goldilocks Zone” that is neither too hot, nor too cold, for liquid water to exist on the surface. For that reason, astrobiologists have looked to exoplanets — planets circling other stars — for signs of oceans like our own that might harbor extraterrestrial life in order to answer one of the oldest questions humans have asked: “Are we alone in the universe?”

    Read more
  • The Hadal Zone: Aqua Incognita

    by Tim Shank, Ph.D.

    If there is any place on Earth that can be considered terra (or more accurately, aqua) incognita, it is the ocean’s hadal zone. Named after Hades, the Greek god of the underworld, the hadal zone extends from a depth of 6,000 to 11,000 meters (3.7 to 6.8 miles). It is made up primarily of widely separated ocean trenches and troughs that together occupy an area about half the size of Australia, but new regions of hadal seafloor are still being discovered.

    Read more
  • Orpheus Class Vehicles

    By Tim Shank, Ph.D.

    Orpheus is both the new class of autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) capable of reaching the ocean’s greatest depths and the first vehicle of the class. Two identical Orpheus AUVs were built in 2018, named Orpheus and Eurydice after the famous pair from Greek mythology who adventured through the depths of Hades.

    Read more
  • Testing the Use of Environmental DNA to Explore the Deep Ocean

    By Katharine Egan and Meredith Everett, Ph.D.

    During the 2021 Technology Demonstration, we will be collecting water samples to detect environmental DNA, also known as “eDNA,” throughout the water column. eDNA is the genetic material that organisms leave behind in their environment (for example, in sediment or water). By collecting and analyzing this genetic material left behind, species can be identified within an environment without scientists ever having to see them. eDNA has many applications and is widely used at NOAA.

    Read more
  • Introducing the NOAA Ocean Exploration Cooperative Institute

    by Adam Soule, Ph.D.

    The NOAA Ocean Exploration Cooperative Institute (OECI) is one of 20 NOAA Cooperative Institutes, each of which is made up of academic and non-profit research institutions that demonstrate the highest level of performance and conduct research that supports NOAA's mission goals and Strategic Plan.

    Read more