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Saturday, March 24, 2012

UPDATED!! HE MADE IT!! James Cameron's Mariana Trench Dive Hours Away COMPLETED!!

**UPDATED, March 25: He made it!! Safe and sound. All the details here.

The time draws near!
James Cameron's dive to the deepest place on earth, the Mariana Trench, is about to take place. Cameron's team is in place and ready to dive THIS weekend if the weather conditions are fair enough.

"We did some test launches and recoveries, and we did an unpiloted dive of the vehicle," Cameron said Friday.

Earlier this week retired U.S. Navy Capt. Don Walsh said via email, "The sub, its team and the mother ship are all ready to go, and we only wait for the 'weather gods' to favor us."

What is really cool is just how much preparation has gone into this project. To increase the chances of seeing something very interesting, Cameron will be sending down a phone booth sized "lander" that they will be outfitting with bait.

Using sonar, "I'm going to attempt to rendezvous with that vehicle so I can observe animals that are attracted to the chemical signature of its bait," said Cameron.

He has significant enough battery power to maneuver around and explore down there somewhat too.

Here are some important facts about Cameron's brand new sub:
--The pilot is descending about 36,000 feet (10,973 meters), but his ears won’t pop during the journey; the pressure inside the pilot’s sphere stays constant.
--Crammed with equipment and just 43 inches (109 centimeters) wide, the interior of the pilot sphere is so small that the pilot will have to keep his knees bent and can barely move.
--Just like a car, the sub is equipped with “cruise control” so the pilot can hover exactly where he wants to or glide through the water at a constant speed.
--Water vapor from the pilot’s breath and sweat condenses on the cold metal sphere and drains to a space where it’s sucked into a plastic bag. In an emergency, the pilot can drink it.
--The pilot chamber is a sphere because it’s the strongest shape for resisting pressure—if the pilot sat in a cylinder, the walls would need to be three times thicker.
--The sub’s giant beam of syntactic foam shrinks about 2.5 inches (6.4 centimeters) under the immense water pressure at the ocean’s bottom.
--While the sub appears to be one streamlined vessel, the sphere is attached to the foam beam by polyester straps.
--If the sub’s 1,100 pounds (500 kilograms) of ballast weights don’t drop when commanded, a back-up galvanic release will corrode in the seawater within a fixed period of time, freeing the sub to rise to the surface.
--Small “bladders” inside the oil-filled external battery boxes will take in seawater. These “compensation bladders,” made from medical drip bags, are a critical part of the deep-ocean electronics system because the oil compresses at depth.
--The submersible will spin slowly as it descends and ascends. It’s engineered to do this so it doesn’t veer off track.
--The sub’s batteries are made up of over a thousand pouch-type lithium-ion cells, bigger versions of the batteries hobbyists use for model airplanes.
--More than 180 systems—from battery packs to sonar—will be operating during the dive.
--Every circuit board in the sub’s exterior electronics—over 1,500 of them—was designed and built specially for this vehicle.
--The sub’s four external cameras are a tenth the size of previous deep-ocean HD cameras. The housings were designed by the DEEPSEA CHALLENGE team, and the cameras themselves were created from scratch, from the sensor up.

Check out this video clip showing key depths along the way down for the Cameron Challenger Depth Dive:



Yes, the sub has been down there and back already! Unmanned of course. So it's good news the integrity of the craft is up to the challenge. What I find so interesting about this dive is the sheer number of redundancies that Cameron has placed in the sub. For example, when they test dove to 8000 meters, he lost a thruster on his trip back up to the surface. Trouble? Nope. He has ELEVEN others to rely upon. They worked. The question is, has he thought of everything that can go wrong? Let's hope so!

More info after the dive!! This is Cameron at his best.

Sources: DeepSeaChallenge.com | National Geographic | Facebook

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