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New look at Titanic with a robot's 'eye.' (Jason Jr. robot)

New look at Titanic with a robot's 'eye'

Scientists at the Woods Hole (Mass.) Oceanographic Institution are delving deeper into the recently uncovered remains of the Titanic. This week they landed a small manned submarine, the Alvin, on the upper deck of the sunken luxury liner and sent a picture-taking robot down the grand staircase. The robot descended four levels and sent back views of the grand promenade deck and a nearby room containing a large chandelier still intact 74 years after the Titanic sank.

Expedition leader Robert D. Ballard radioed the news back to Woods Hole and said the successful mission "was like landing on the moon."

The 50 researchers participating in the expedition departed aboard the research vessel Atlantis II on July 9. Ballard also headed the team that found the Titanic in the North Atlantic last year (SN:9/21/85, p.182).

The lawnmower-size robot, named Jason Jr., carries high-resolution color video and still cameras and is attached to the Alvin by a 250-foot electrical tether. Its propulsion system is guided by an operator in the three-person submarine. At a July 8 press conference in Woods Hole, Ballard said Jason Jr. will act as a "swimming eyeball" inside the Titanic.

Visibility at the 12,500-foot depth of the wreck is limited, cautioned Ballard, and submersible vehicles must be operated with care to avoid entanglement in parts of the remains.

According to Ballard, one-third to one-half of the Titanic's stern was not located in last year's expedition and only a small portion of a field of debris behind the ship was explored. The current expedition is expected to shed light on where missing pieces of the 883-foot vessel are located and what is in the debris.

The researchers hope to get in 12 days of diving before returning by the end of the month. Four hours of exploration are planned daily, sandwiched between the five hours it takes for Alvin to dive to the Titanic's remains and resurface.
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Author:Bower, Bruce
Publication:Science News
Date:Jul 19, 1986
Words:331
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