From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Deep Ocean Mission, Samudrayaan
Mains level : Read the attached story
- India’s Deep Ocean Mission (DOM) is a visionary initiative aimed at exploring and harnessing the immense potential of the ocean’s depths.
- Among its groundbreaking objectives, DOM will deploy an indigenous submersible with a three-member crew to reach a depth of 6,000 meters in the ocean, marking India’s first foray into the profound oceanic abyss.
Deep Ocean Mission Overview
- Mission Pillars: DOM, principally led by the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES), encompasses six pillars:
- Development of deep-sea mining technologies and a crewed submersible for exploring depths of 6,000 meters.
- Ocean climate change advisory services, involving extensive ocean observations and modeling.
- Technological innovations for deep-sea biodiversity exploration and conservation.
- Deep-ocean survey to identify potential sites of multi-metal hydrothermal sulphides mineralization.
- Harnessing energy and freshwater resources from the ocean.
- Establishment of an advanced Marine Station for Ocean Biology.
- Strategic Significance: DOM aligns with the ‘New India 2030′ vision, focusing on a blue economy as a core objective for India’s growth. It is part of the United Nations’ ‘Decade of Ocean Science’ (2021-2030) and complements Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s emphasis on sustainably utilizing the ocean’s potential for national development.
- Collaborative Efforts: Multiple MoES institutes, including the Centre for Marine Living Resources and Ecology (CMLRE), Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS), National Centre for Coastal Research (NCCR), National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research (NCPOR), and National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT), collaborate with national institutes and academia to achieve DOM’s objectives.
Progress on Pillar 1: Deep-Sea Mining Technologies and Crewed Submersible:
- ‘Samudrayaan’ Initiative: India’s deep ocean mission, ‘Samudrayaan,’ was launched in 2021 under the leadership of MoES. It aims to reach a depth of 6,000 meters in the central Indian Ocean using the ‘Matsya6000’ submersible, accommodating a crew of three members.
- Submersible Features: Matsya6000 is equipped with scientific sensors, tools, and an operational endurance of 12 hours (extendable to 96 hours in emergencies). The submersible’s design is complete, with testing and experimentation at a depth of 500 meters scheduled in the upcoming year.
- Mining System: NIOT is developing an integrated system for mining polymetallic nodules from the central Indian Ocean bed. This mineral-rich region, allocated by the United Nations International Seabed Authority (ISA), includes copper, manganese, nickel, and cobalt.
- Successful Trials: NIOT conducted deep-sea locomotion trials with the ‘Varaha’ underwater mining system at a depth of 5,270 meters in the central Indian Ocean. Varaha collected polymetallic nodules during the trial, marking a significant milestone.
- Challenges: Deep-sea exploration faces immense challenges, including high pressure, soft and muddy ocean bed surfaces, power supply constraints, visibility limitations, temperature variations, and corrosion. NIOT and MoES are committed to addressing these complexities.
Significance of the Chosen Depth (6,000 meters)
- Strategic Depth: Targeting a depth of 6,000 meters serves a strategic purpose. India aims to sustainably extract valuable resources such as polymetallic nodules and sulphides, with ISA allocating regions in the central Indian Ocean for exploration.
- Resource Distribution: Polymetallic nodules, rich in metals like copper, manganese, nickel, iron, and cobalt, are found around 5,000 meters deep. Polymetallic sulphides occur at approximately 3,000 meters. By operating at 6,000 meters, India can effectively cover depths of 3,000 to 5,500 meters, spanning its Exclusive Economic Zone and the central Indian Ocean.
Challenges in Deep-Ocean Exploration
- High Pressure: Exploring the deep oceans involves extreme pressure conditions, with water exerting tremendous force. Equipment must be meticulously designed to withstand these conditions.
- Soft Ocean Bed: The soft and muddy ocean bed complicates landing and maneuvering for heavy vehicles.
- Material Durability: Electronics and instruments must endure underwater conditions, unlike space where objects are designed to function in a vacuum.
- Extraction Challenges: Extracting materials from the ocean bed necessitates significant power and energy, with the need to transport extracted minerals to the surface.
- Visibility Constraints: Limited natural light penetration in deep waters poses visibility challenges.
Matsya-6000 and Varaha: A Vision for India’s Ocean Exploration
- Matsya6000: India’s flagship deep-ocean submersible combines features of remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) and autonomous remote vehicles (AUVs). It accommodates a crew of three, is constructed from titanium alloy, and is designed to withstand high pressures.
- Varaha: Varaha is India’s deep-ocean mining system, operating on the flexible riser technique. It successfully conducted deep-sea locomotion trials at a depth of 5,270 meters, marking a world record.
- Unique Ecosystem: India is poised to possess a comprehensive underwater vehicle ecosystem, encompassing deep-water ROVs, polar ROVs, AUVs, deep-water coring systems, and more.
- India’s Deep Ocean Mission is a pioneering endeavour to explore and harness the potential of the ocean’s depths.
- With Matsya6000 and Varaha, India is poised to join the selective nations conducting deep-ocean exploration and mining.