The Deep Ocean Mission (DOM) is India’s ambitious hunt to explore and harness the depths of the ocean. As part of this action, India will, for the first time, embark on a trip to a depth of 6,000 metres in the ocean using an indigenously developed submersible with a three- member crew. The charge will bear technologies to pierce and transport tonnes of precious minerals from the ocean- bed in an environmentally safe manner. The ensuing interview, with M. Ravichandran, Secretary of the Ministry of Earth lores, breaks down the charge and its salient features and challenges. Scientist Bhavya Khanna of the Ministry led the experiment. Could you please explain the DOM to us and how MoES fits into this program?
Deep Ocean Mission is India’s ambitious programme:
Deep Ocean Mission is India’s ambitious programme, primarily enforced by the MoES. Deep Ocean Mission(DOM) was approved by the Union Cabinet in 2021 at a cost of nearly Rs 4,077 crore over a five- time period in a phased manner. The charge has six pillars
What’s deep ocean mining and what are the enterprises related to the assiduity?
i) Development of technologies for deep- ocean mining and a manned submersible to carry three people to a depth of 6,000 metres in the ocean. The submersible will be equipped with a suite of scientific detectors, tools and an intertwined system for mining polymetallic nodes from the central Indian Ocean;
ii) Development of ocean climate change advisory services, involving an array of ocean compliances and models to understand and give unborn climate protrusions;
iii) Technological inventions for the disquisition and conservation of deep- ocean biodiversity;
iv) Deep- ocean check and disquisition aimed at relating implicit spots of multi-metal hydrothermal sulphides mineralisation along the Indian Ocean mid-oceanic crests;
v) Employing energy and freshwater from the ocean; and
vi) Establishing an advanced Marine Station for Ocean Biology, as a mecca for nurturing gift and driving new openings in ocean biology and blue biotechnology.
The ‘New India 2030 ’ document outlines a blue frugality as the sixth core ideal for India’s growth. The times 2021- 2030 have been designated by the United Nations as the ‘Decade of Ocean Science’, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi has, on several occasions, emphasized the need for India to work towards sustainably employing the ocean’s eventuality for the nation’s growth. Deep Ocean Mission is one of nine operations under the Prime Minister’s Science, Technology, and Innovation Advisory Council (PMSTIAC). It’s imperative that DOM supports the blue- frugality precedence area, blue trade, and blue manufacturing in India.
MoES institutes, especially the Centre for Marine Living coffers 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) will unite with other public institutes and academia to achieve the objects outlined in Deep Ocean Mission (DOM), albeit with well- insulated liabilities. Deep Ocean Mission’s progress is nearly covered by special councils and panels comprising experts from across the public and multi-institutions, given its status as a precedence and concentrate area for us.
Please tell us about the progress of the first pillar of Deep Ocean Mission (DOM), which requires the development of technologies for deep- ocean mining and a crewed submersible.
The NIOT, an independent institute under MoES, has been entrusted with the accreditation of developing indigenous technologies to address engineering challenges associated with exploring and utilizing oceanic coffers. As a part of Deep Ocean Mission (DOM), India’s flagship deep ocean charge, ‘Samudrayaan’, was initiated in 2021 by the Minister of Earth lores. With ‘ Samudrayaan ’, India is embarking on a groundbreaking crewed passage to reach a depth of 6,000 m to the ocean bed in the central Indian Ocean. This major trip will be fulfilled by Matsya6000, a deep- ocean submersible designed to accommodate a crew of three members. Equipped with a suite of scientific detectors and tools, Matsya6000 boasts an functional abidance of 12 hours, which is extendable to 96 hours in the event of an exigency.
The design of Matsya6000 has now been completed. Our original phase will involve testing and trial at a depth of 500 metres (shallow water) within the forthcoming time, followed by a realisation of the full 6,000- metre depth capability within two to three times. The shallow- water labor force sphere of Matsya6000 has been certified for mortal- rated operations at over to 500- m water depths. A mortal acclimatisation test in a shallow- water sphere was successfully conducted with three labor force for two hours at a depth of 7m.
The Ministry is also working on an intertwined system to mine polymetallic nodes of precious minerals from the central Indian Ocean bed. The minerals we can mine from the ocean bed in the central Indian Ocean region, allocated to us by the United Nations International Seabed Authority (ISA), include bobby , manganese, nickel, and cobalt.
Countries at loggerheads over the future of deep ocean mining NIOT has successfully conducted deep- ocean locomotion trials on the seabed at a depth of 5,270 m using our aquatic mining system, ‘Varaha’. This corner is a step towards unborn disquisition and harvesting of deep- ocean coffers. We’ve seen good results from field tests and trials, so we’re staying the course. The deepest point in the abysses, the Mariana Trench, is 11,000 m deep.
Why was 6,000 meters chosen as the depth?
Strategically, the choice to go for a 6,000 m depth for the DOM is noteworthy.
India has committed to the sustainable birth of precious coffers, including polymetallic nodes and polymetallic sulphides. ISA has allocated a 75,000-sq.– km region in the central Indian Ocean and an fresh 10,000sq. km at 26° S to India for this purpose. Polymetallic nodes, which contain precious essence like bobby, manganese, nickel, iron, and cobalt, are set up roughly 5,000 m deep, and polymetallic sulphides do at around 3,000 m in the central Indian Ocean. thus, our interests gauge depths of 3,000- 5,500 m. By equipping ourselves to operate at a depth of 6,000 m, we can effectively feed to both the Indian Exclusive Economic Zone and the central Indian Ocean. It’s said that exploring the deep abysses is more grueling than exploring external space.
Can you unfold on some of the important challenges of India’s Deep Ocean Mission (DOM)?
Indeed, exploring the depths of the abysses has proved to be more grueling than exploring external space. The abecedarian distinction lies with the high pressure in the deep abysses. While external space is akin to a near perfect vacuum, being one cadence aquatic puts as important pressure on an object of one square cadence area as if it were carrying about of 10,000 kg of weight, which is original to a huge adult giant.
Operating under similar high- pressure conditions requires the use of strictly designed outfit drafted from durable essence or accoutrements . also, electronics and instruments find it simpler to serve in a vacuum or in space. Again, inside the water, inadequately designed objects collapse or buckle.
Wharf on the ocean bed also presents challenges due to its incredibly soft and muddy face. This factor renders it exceedingly delicate for heavy vehicles to land or manoeuvre, as they would inescapably sink. also, rooting accoutrements requires them to be pumped to the face, an undertaking that demands a large quantum of power and energy. Unlike controlling rovers on distant globes, ever operated vehicles prove ineffective in the deep abysses due to the absence of electromagnetic surge propagation in this medium. Visibility also poses a significant chain as natural light can access only a many knockouts of metres beneath the face, whereas space compliances are eased through telescopes. All these intricate challenges are farther compounded by factors like variations in temperature, erosion, saltness, etc., all of which must also be dealt with. This is where NIOT plays an important part. Since its establishment in 1993, NIOT has handed scientific engineering results for a wide variety of earth- system- related issues. These results gauge sand restoration and tocsin compliances to the creation of vehicles acclimatized for polar regions and lakes. One of the pillars, which revolves around developing technologies for deep- ocean crewed operations and mining systems, has been progressing well.
Please tell us about the Matsya6000.
The Matsya6000 is India’s flagship deep- ocean mortal submersible that aims to reach the ocean bed at a depth of 6,000m. Accompanied by three crew members, called “ aquanauts ”, the submersible carries a suite of scientific tools and outfit designed to grease compliances, sample collection, introductory videotape and audio recording, and trial. India suits over for deepest dive yet The primary charge of Matsya6000 revolves around disquisition. specially, countries similar as the U.S.A., Russia, China, France, and Japan have formerly achieved successful deep- ocean crewed operations. India is poised to join the species of these nations by demonstrating moxie of and capability for deep- ocean crewed operations. As a country, this makes us veritably proud. It’s also important to note that our focus remains on developing these technologies indigenously, aligned with the vision of ‘ Atmanirbhar Bharat ’.
Matsya 6000 seamlessly combines the stylish and most doable features of remote operated vehicles (ROVs) and independent remote vehicles (AUVs). Although itssub-sea abidance is limited, it offers an excellent intervention medium and operates untethered. This point positions it immaculately for deep- ocean observation operations.
The innards of Matsya6000 is designed to accommodate three humans travelling within a specialised sphere with a periphery of 2.1 m. The mortal sphere would weigh roughly 28 tonnes and have a short- sleeved terrain with life support, where oxygen is supplied and carbon dioxide is dropped down. Constructed from a titanium amalgamation, the sphere is finagled to repel pressures of over to 6,000 bar. It’s equipped with propellers enabling movement in all six directions and features three viewports that allow the crew to observe its surroundings in real- time.
Communication is achieved through sound – an aural phone and modem. The navigation and positioning systems are state- of- the- art, too.
The overall confines of Matsya are 9 m in length, 3 m in breadth, and 5 m in height. Importantly, it’ll not be laboriously lowered through sinking; rather, it’ll serve as a free- floating system, for energy effectiveness. It can move at a speed of about 5.5 km/ hr using aquatic thrusters, which is acceptable. With Matsya, India will be the only country to have an entire ecosystem of aquatic vehicles encompassing deep- water ROVs, polar ROVs, AUVs, deep- water coring systems, and more.
Tell us more about the Varaha deep-ocean mining system in India.
Which other countries have successfully taken up deep- ocean mining so far?
ISA has granted deep- ocean disquisition and mining contracts to several countries, including China, France, Germany, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and India. Our own deep- ocean mining vehicle, ‘Varaha’, is a tone- propelled track- grounded seabed mining system.
It operates on the flexible platform fashion the mining vehicle is lowered to the ocean bed from a face boat using a high- strength flexible cord system. Once the vehicle reaches the ocean bed, it’ll be suitable to move around while the face boat moves in tandem.
High Swell in murky waters over prospective seabed mining deposited at apre-surveyed mineral-rich point, Varaha uses a high- power pressure pump system to grease the birth of precious polymetallic nodes. These nodes are pumped from the ocean bed to the face boat.
Last time, NIOT successfully conducted deep- ocean locomotion trials of ‘Varaha’ at a depth of 5,270 m in the central Indian Ocean. Over a span of 2.5 hours, the face boat covered a distance of 120 m with Varaha. This achievement marked the world’s deepest dive for an aquatic mining machine. ‘Varaha’ was suitable to collect the polymetallic nodes from the ocean bed during the trial.
An environmental impact assessment for this operation has been submitted to transnational authorities, signifying the successful completion of stage 1. nevertheless, important work remains in stage 2, which includes the birth of precious minerals. In this stage, our mining system has to make a slurry by combining polymetallic nodes with ocean water on the ocean bed using a important clincher. also, the mineral slurry will be pumped up to the face (5,000- 6,000 m) through a platform.
Given that the power force – of about 1 MW per hour – can only be supplied from the face boat, the pump must be veritably important. further power would mean veritably high platform disunion.
The slurry has to be transported so that the minerals can be uprooted. We’re working on addressing all these aspects, and our progress is promising. I would like to add that the Ministry of Earth lores, colorful public institutes, and academia all involved as part of DOM have demonstrated excellent collaboration, knowledge exchange, and pooling of mortal capital. This embodies the veritably substance of the scientific zeal that defines our nation. By 2025, we’re confident of moving the Deep Ocean Mission (DOM) ahead. Our commitment to success and service remains unvarying.