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And if you should come upon this spot, please do not hurry on
— Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince



SUBSEA brings together the worlds of Space and Ocean exploration science and is a partnership between NASA, NOAA, the Ocean Exploration Trust and various academic centers across the U.S. Our funding is provided by the NASA PSTAR (ROSES Element C14) program, with additional support from NOAA Office of Ocean and Exploration Research (OER).

The SUSBEA research program was founded in 2017, and our nominal program length is for just over three years. Our team will head to the deep ocean on-board of the Exploration Vessel (E/V) Nautilus to explore volcanic seamounts at depths of up to 4000m with Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs). Click on the Mission Overview tabs on the SUBSEA website to learn more about the research.

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The SUBSEA team investigates intra-plate submarine volcanoes as they may challenge assumptions that mid-ocean ridge data impose on our models of Ocean World energetics and associated habitability predictions. These seamounts host a distinct class of lower-temperature (<150°C) fluid flow systems that have been comparatively overlooked on Earth, but which may be a particularly pertinent analog for any other Ocean World that possesses discrete seafloor volcanism regardless of planetary-scale tectonics. Furthermore, the conditions anticipated for Enceladus (T=50-200°C; P=10-50 MPa) coincide closely with those reported for submarine intraplate volcanoes.

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The E/V/ Nautilus science-driven telepresence mission architecture provides the SUBSEA Science Operations research team with a high-fidelity, ‘flight like’ analog to Low Latency Telerobotic (LLT) mission concepts that are envisioned as an important component of NASA’s long-term strategy for achieving extended human presence in deep-space. LLT ops concepts offer opportunities for what the terrestrial robotics community considers to be high-quality telepresence. Under these mission designs, astronauts will be in close communication proximity to a surface exploration site (thereby minimizing round-trip communication latency with the robotic assets to ~<2sec), thus extending human cognition to deep-space targets such as asteroids and Mars prior to (and in anticipation of) putting humans on those planetary surfaces.


The SUBSEA Tech team will be integrating the NASA developed Exploration Ground Data Systems (xGDS) software with Nautilus telepresence mission support systems, and then systematically evaluating the technology during SUBSEA field campaigns. xGDS will provide human/robotic software functionality to support integration and visualization of diverse data products relevant to future human exploration of deep space.