Proteus: the international underwater space station

Isbel Lázaro.

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Inspenet, September 18, 2023.

Proteus Ocean Group, led by Fabien Cousteau, is developing what could be considered the underwater equivalent of the International Space Station (ISS).

This project consists of the creation of an “ocean underwater space station” that will serve as a research platform at the bottom of the ocean and will allow the study of the impact of climate change on coral reefs, all from the comforts of its facilities under the water. The group plans to build it at a depth of approximately 20 meters off the coast of Curacao in the Caribbean by 2026.

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Submarine station for new research

This project is part of an agreement with NOAA, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which aims to use this underwater space infrastructure to advance ocean-related science, research and education.

“This partnership has the potential to greatly expand our capabilities in the study of the ocean,” commented Jeremy Weirich, director of NOAA Ocean Exploration, in a statement from this organization, whose purpose is to understand and predict our changing environment, from the depths. from the sea to outer space and manage and conserve America’s marine and coastal resources. “By living underwater for extended periods in this new ocean laboratory, we will be able to unlock the mysteries of the ocean so we can better manage, use, protect and appreciate its resources in a sustainable way.”

Proteus will function as a habitable underwater environment where scientists, citizens and others will have the opportunity to reside underwater for extended periods of time, for the purpose of conducting research in the marine environment.

About the underwater “ISS” facilities

According to Cousteau’s vision, these living areas will offer a home-like experience, rather than simply being sealed capsules like those of a submarine. They will include a kitchen, workspace and bedroom, along with windows that will provide views of the underwater world and a moon pool-shaped entrance located at the bottom of the structure for easy access to the facilities.

Likewise, they will contain cutting-edge scientific laboratories, an observatory and an underwater garden for food production. The aquanauts will reside and carry out their duties under the sea. In addition, Proteus will have a large video production facility to live stream educational and research content.

The new underwater laboratory, with the capacity to accommodate an initial group of 8 people, with the possibility of increasing to 12 people, who could be scientists, members of the public and others, represents a further step in NOAA’s research programs, who has previously developed the Aquarius underwater research station in 1988.

The first will be built in the waters near Curacao, but the team is exploring other locations in both Europe and the United States for future installations, with the intention of establishing a network. Curaçao sits on a seamount, which could provide easy access from the underwater station to a wide variety of ecosystems, including everything from coral reefs to the highest twilight zone.

If all goes according to plan, Proteus, along with a connected satellite station located in deeper waters, is projected to be installed underwater by 2026. Simultaneously, the construction of a ground mission control base will take place.


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