The Great Frontiers of Exploration

The soft blue pool of light in claustrophobic darkness, the white and crème-colored towers of limestone, the shimmer of hot fluids mixing with cold sea water, the occasional life form swimming back – it is another day in the exciting exploration of the Lost City Hydrothermal Field. Half a kilometer below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean, the two IFE ROVs Argus and Hercules are being kept busy while scientists a quarter of the world away keep their eyes fixed on monitors displaying live high definition video and images.

This is all new. The Lost City has been little explored until now and the technology allowing scientists on land to participate is cutting-edge. So far the Lost City 2005 mission has been an unqualified success, demonstrating the ability to extend human activities through telepresence by putting some of the most remote and dangerous locations within the grasp of our robotic arms. This is being there by not being there.

There are two fronts taking humans into the Great Frontiers. Telepresence is the first, allowing us to go to places not safe for our bodies at this time. The second includes the follow-up technologies that finally make such locations accessible to humans in bodily form. In space we send robotic spacecraft out through the solar system while we continue working on technology to take humans safely out into our own local celestial neighborhood. Meanwhile, under the ocean unmanned ROVs explore sites like the Lost City while technical divers in shallower waters keep setting new records for the greatest depths ever dived by a human without a vehicle.

The ocean, outer space, and cyberspace are the Great Frontiers. We explore in person and with robotic surrogates, taking agonizing step after agonizing step toward no destination but “further,” “out there,” and “where no person has gone before.” Frontier Channel is dedicated to these explorers, human and otherwise.

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