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This Floating Marine Laboratory Aims to Make Ocean Exploration Cool Again

The SeaOrbiter's primary purpose is for marine research, but it also aims to inspire

In the 1960s and 70s, ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau and his Calypso crew served as heroes for many an intrepid youth. Ocean exploration was coming to a head with the recent development of the aqualung—the first personal scuba system—and underwater habitats were popping up around the world. In the years since, however, the ocean has lost a bit of its mystique for funders, governments and would-be explorers. Space became the sexy new frontier, causing nearly all the existing underwater labs to shut their dive pits for good.

A French team of ocean lovers and explorers, however, wants to change all of that. They are creating the SeaOrbiter, a new state-of-the-art floating marine laboratory. Two-thirds of the lab will be submerged in the water, giving divers an easy exit and reentry point and allowing guests and researchers to observe the underwater kingdom from their living and working quarters. SeaOrbiter will give scientists a 24-hour platform to conduct marine research, both above and below the water. Up to 22 people can live aboard the 170-foot tall vessel at one time, the Daily News reports, and it will be fueled by a combination of wind, solar and wave energy. Construction will begin in May 2014.

The SeaOrbiter’s primary purpose is for research, but more than that, the creators say they hope it will inspire young people to once again look towards to ocean for inspiration in their future careers and lives. As one of the creators lamented to Wired, “We have lost our sense of vision.”

More from Smithsonian.com:

Artist Explores the Deep in Underwater Wheel Chair 
Astronaut Scott Carpenter, the Second American to Orbit the Planet, Dies at 88

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