New Deeper-Diving, Human-Occupied Submersible to Replace Current Alvin; Subject of Briefing by NSF, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Scientists
Arlington, Va.—After 40 years of scientific voyages, the research submersible Alvin will be replaced by a new, deeper-diving submersible, known as a human-occupied vehicle (HOV). Studies from Alvin have resulted in the discovery of new life forms, led to confirmation of the theory of plate tectonics, and stimulated and enthralled schoolchildren around the world with seafloor images and video.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) will provide funding for the new vehicle through a cooperative agreement with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). A 2004 National Research Council report, Future Needs of Deep Submergence Science, indicated that an HOV with more capability than Alvin was a high priority. A merit-based review of an unsolicited proposal led to a cooperative agreement with WHOI for the first phase of construction.
The new vehicle will be capable of reaching more than 99 percent of the seafloor, peering into ocean depths of 6,500 meters (21,320 feet), and conducting a broader range of research projects around the world. When completed in 2008, it will be the most capable deep-sea research vehicle in the world. Alvin, which has undergone nearly continuous upgrades since its launch in 1964, dives to 4,500 meters (14,764 feet).
NSF and WHOI officials will discuss the capabilities of the new vehicle. The design of the replacement HOV for Alvin is the result of more than 10 years of discussions and input from the scientific community. Although Alvin was the first human-occupied vehicle in routine use in the deep sea, HOVs operated by Japan, Russia and France now have capabilities that surpass those of Alvin, and China is building its first deep-diving HOV. All can dive deeper, carry heavier payloads, remain submerged longer, and have more passenger space than Alvin.
Available at the briefing will be still images and video of the current Alvin, an animation of the new HOV and background information on both vehicles.
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The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2016, its budget is $7.5 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 48,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards. NSF also awards about $626 million in professional and service contracts yearly.
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