Why did NASA stop exploring the ocean?


Since the early days of the Space Race, NASA has been at the forefront of ocean exploration. From the first images of Earth taken from space, to the first manned mission to the ocean floor, NASA has helped unlock the mysteries of the deep. In recent years, however, the agency has all but abandoned ocean exploration, leaving it to other agencies and private companies to pick up the slack.

There are a number of reasons why NASA has pulled back from ocean exploration in recent years. Firstly, the agency has been refocusing its efforts on exploration of the solar system, in particular Mars. With the success of the Mars rover Curiosity, and the upcoming launch of the Mars 2020 rover, NASA has been pouring more and more resources into planetary exploration. Secondly, ocean exploration is an incredibly expensive undertaking. The cost of building and operating a spacecraft capable of withstanding the harsh conditions of the deep sea is prohibitive for most government agencies. Private companies, such as Virgin Oceanic and Deepflight, have been able to fill the void left by NASA, but they lack the experience and expertise of the space agency. Thirdly, ocean exploration is a very difficult and dangerous proposition. The depths of the ocean are completely unknown, and there are very few places on Earth that are as hostile to human life as the bottom of the sea. The risk of losing a spacecraft, and the valuable data it contains, is simply too high for most government agencies to justify the cost. Fourthly, the data gleaned from ocean exploration is often of limited value. The vast majority of the ocean is completely inhospitable to life, and as such, there is little scientific value in exploring it. The few pockets of habitability that do exist are often so far from shore that they are inaccessible to most researchers. Finally, ocean exploration is simply not a priority for NASA anymore. The agency has been moving away from Earth-based science in recent years, and ocean exploration is no longer seen as a core part of its mission. With the focus on Mars and the solar system, there is simply no room in the budget for ocean exploration. All of these factors have contributed to NASA's gradual withdrawal from ocean exploration. The agency is no longer the leading force in this field, and it is unlikely that it will return to its former glory anytime soon.