Welcome to the Challenger Mission
RU COOL was issued, in December 2009, a challenge to build a global network and community of glider operators to improve our understanding of a changing ocean. This effort, known as the Challenger Glider Mission, is a historic initiative to deploy and then have undergraduate students operate a globally coordinated expedition to sample Earth’s oceans. This effort is dedicated to first modern oceanography expedition, which the historic 1872 voyage of the HMS Challenger. 140 years later, RU COOL is now focused on building a global network of gliders to understand a changing global ocean. We ask you to join to conduct the Challenger Mission.
The scientists who led the historic 1872 voyage of the HMS Challenger were principally concerned with the most significant scientific question of their time: can Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution be proved? Darwin had put forward his theory some 40 years earlier with his own voyage aboard the HMS Beagle to the Galapagos Islands. But unlike Darwin’s and other previous voyages, the HMS Challenger’s sole purpose was to gather scientific information. The HMS Challenger’s mission had four core objectives:
- Investigate the physical conditions (depth, temperature, circulation, specific gravity and light penetration) of the deep sea in the great ocean basins
- Determine the chemical composition of seawater at various depths from the surface to the bottom, the organic matter in solution and the particles in suspension
- Ascertain the physical and chemical character of deep-sea deposits and the sources of these deposits
- Investigate the distribution of organic life at different depths and on the deep seafloor.
Glider Asset Map
To see this map full screen, please visit this Glider Asset Viewer page.
Today, scientists at Rutgers’ Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences seek understanding that will help global society address two of the most difficult challenges for our time: climate change, and a human population that will grow to 9 billion by mid-century. Just as they were in 1872, the oceans are critical to that understanding and to our well-being: they are an essential source of food and transportation, as well as the ultimate repository for carbon emissions.
The HMS Challenger was a global mission to educate the world, to find proof of evolution, and to study if evolution was real. The scientific and naval team aboard HMS Challenger used new technology—the telegraph—to communicate back home what it was finding. The Challenger Glider Mission will do the same, using the latest sensor, power, and other technologies to understand and sample deep water in the world’s oceans.
The ocean is the most undersampled and least understood aspect of the climate system. The Challenger Glider Mission will focus new attention on the oceans, and the important role they play in short-term weather patterns and long-term climate change.
The Challenger Glider Mission will be a historic initiative—a globally coordinated expedition that uses robots – gliders – to sample the deep oceans. The project involves 16 virtually simultaneous flights that replicate the HMS Challenger’s original route; it will enlist the efforts of land-based oceanographers who control and operate this global fleet in coordination. Test flights to identify design issues that inform ideal robot development will commence in 2012 and run through 2013. Rutgers and its partners will build the 16 gliders in 2014, with plans to run the 16 simultaneous flights during 2015.
The mission will create a new global culture of collaboration among oceanographers and climate change specialists for the shared goal of better understanding the oceans. Rutgers is working with other universities, industry partners and government representatives to identify, train, and coordinate management of the project. Ideally, Rutgers’ partners for the Challenger Glider Mission will include faculty and oceanography students from each part of the globe where gliders will launch – North and South America, Europe, Africa, and Asia. [Do we know who some of the partners are??]
Why use robots? Robots offer many distinct advantages of humans in collecting the data that will form the backbone of the Challenger Glider Mission: they provide continuous data collection over long periods of time, they can traverse extreme environments that are hard to reach and hard for scientists to navigate, and they cost far less than maintaining teams of scientists aboard vessels circumnavigating the oceans. Most important, they enable a level of research capture and analysis not possible from more traditional forms of data-gathering aboard scientific ships. By working together with collaborators around the world, the glider operators will learn to work in a global framework, while addressing relevant local issues.
The gliders will house sensors that capture continuous readings of ocean temperature, salinity, and currents. The data taken will enable researchers to monitor heat content in the upper ocean globally – to see how it is changing, and how it is transported. The data will augment existing ocean models, and as a result, improve climate forecast accuracy. As variability in atmospheric and ocean conditions increases, along with more extreme weather events, this information becomes ever more critical. Researchers will also explore placing optic sensors on the guiders to observe phytoplankton, and other ways to incorporate observing systems that use tiny amounts of power, weigh very little and can withstand the harsh conditions at sea.
In their courses and the glider lab at the Institute of Marine and Coastal Studies (IMCS), students at Rutgers are already working on initial route plans. In some cases, the gliders will follow the lines mapped by the World Ocean Circulation Experiment. The World Ocean Circulation Experiment (WOCE) was a part of the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP), which used resources from nearly 30 countries to make unprecedented in-situ and satellite observations of the global ocean between 1990 and 1998 and to observe poorly understood but important physical processes. One objective of the Challenger Glider Mission will be to update the data for some of those 60 lines created as part of WOCE.