Mapping system used to find shipwreck may aid space probes
Sophisticated underwater mapping technology may help space exploration
September 13, 1998
Web posted at: 1:13 p.m. EDT (1713 GMT)
SAN FRANCISCO (CNN) -- In 1871, off the coast of Alaska, a fleet of 32 whaling ships was trapped and crushed by Arctic Ocean ice that came along unexpectedly early. The 1,200 sailors survived by rowing small boats 80 miles through the ice to rescue ships.
Recently, a group of NASA scientists used sophisticated underwater mapping technology and cameras to find the remnants of the ships after nearly 130 years.
But while the discovery was in and of itself an archeological achievement, it also marked something more important. NASA scientists say the search for the ships was primarily an exercise to test the technology, to refine and hone their instruments.
Now that they know it can work, the system can be used in more difficult searches a world away -- exploring the ancient seas that may lie beneath the surfaces of Mars and peering into hydrothermal vents on Europa, a moon of Jupiter, that may support life.