SS Weekly highlight

Title: SUBSEA research project completes successful mission to the Lo`ihi Seamount off the coast of the Big Island of Hawai`i. — Short Story:The SUBSEA research project is lead by Dr. Darlene Lim from Code SST at the NASA Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley.  SUBSEA is funded by the NASA SMD P-STAR program with significant in-kind support from NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration and Research. The SUBSEA team completed their first of two at-sea missions on September 14, 2018.  Their first expedition, known as Cruise A, was to the Lo`ihi Seamount, Hawai`i.  Cruise A took place over 24 days during which time 14 dives with the Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) Hercules and Argus were completed to depths of over 1300m. SUBSEA research included science, science operations and technology research elements, and contributors from the Ocean Exploration Trust, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, Arizona State University, Idaho State University, University of Texas, and Harvard University.  Eight SUBSEA team members were located on the U.S. Federal Exploration Vessel Nautilus from which the ROVs were launched and managed, while another 12 team members were located at the Inner Space Center, University of Rhode Island where they remotely participated in the cruise via a Telepresence Architecture. In addition to conducting research during the cruise, the SUBSEA team was highly active in a number of outreach activities including ship-to-shore school interactions and various media interviews.


This year, the SUBSEA team is focused on the following research interests:

SUBSEA Science: Our science is focused on fluid venting at isolated seamounts in the deep ocean as analog environments to hydrothermal systems on other Ocean Worlds. A major reason why Ocean Worlds such as Enceladus are thought to be habitable is the likelihood that water-rock reactions at their seafloors yield chemical reductants that, when combined with oxidants in the overlying ocean, provide redox couples that are energetically favorable for sustaining microbial metabolism. The SUBSEA team investigated the intra-plate submarine volcano, Lo`ihi given that this area hosts 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 that were found at Lo`ihi. Numerous hydrothermal vents around the Lo`ihi seamount as well as the new ocean entry point that was recently active due to eruptions on the Big Island were sampled by the team during the Cruise A mission that are currently on their way to be processed and analyzed in order to characterize the chemistry, biology and geology of these systems.

SUBSEA Science Operations: The E/V/ Nautilus-to-shore science-driven telepresence mission architecture provided the SUBSEA team with a high-fidelity, ‘flight like’ analog to Low Latency Telerobotic (LLT) mission concepts. LLT concepts are envisioned as an important component of NASA’s long-term strategy for achieving extended human presence in deep-space, and offer 

opportunities for what the terrestrial robotics community considers to be high-quality telepresence. LLT mission concepts also involve a supporting Mission Support Center and Science Support Team that is located on Earth, and separated from the LLT crew by unavoidable and high communication latencies. This year, the SUBSEA Science Ops team conducted a work domain analysis leveraging a multi-disciplinary approach from the fields of cognitive systems engineering and work ethnography. This research will produce a first-of-its-kind characterization of best practices associated with LLT operations and a rigorous assessment-based analysis of the supporting capability requirements and their corresponding ability to enhance and enable science return under these mission conditions.

SUBSEA Technology: Code T contributors from NASA Ames were focused on understanding requirements associated with mission support during E/V Nautilus expeditions with the goal of integrating NASA Ames developed Exploration Ground Data Systems (xGDS) software with Nautilus telepresence mission support systems. xGDS will provide human/robotic software functionality to support integration and visualization of diverse data products relevant to future human exploration of deep space.

The SUBSEA team was highlighted by the media and NASA HQ as follows:

  • NASA 360Live discussion with Darlene Lim from the E/V Nautilus (hosted by NASA Ames, with 2 million viewers)
  • gov Image of the Day selection (see attached image)
  • NBC News:
  • NPR’s Science Friday:
  • Boston Globe:



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