Samudrayaan: India’s Shot at the Blue Heaven
By: Adhya Pandey
The ocean is an infinitely wide space of water, animals, minerals, soil, and a lot of other realms that go undiscovered because of certain human limitations. However, with the advent of technology, the day of knowing the salt chuck through-and-through for more than just the salt, isn’t far away.
One such project that intends to take us one step closer to being more familiar with the ocean is the Deep Ocean Mission that was launched by the Ministry of Earth Sciences under the Government of India, in 2018. Headed by Dr. Harsh Vardhan, the mission with a budget of ₹8,000 crore (US$1.1 billion), aims to closely study the different aspects of the deep ocean, parallel to the endeavours of the ISRO in studying outer space.
An important phase of the time framework of the Deep Ocean Mission is the Samudrayaan, the ambition of which is to send men into the deep sea in a submersible vehicle by 2021-22. It is said to be in line with ISRO’s Gaganyaan which likewise aims to send an Indian astronaut to space by 2022.
Some of the most important objectives of Samudrayaan are-
Underwater studies- Also known as Underwater Archaeology, it is a branch of archaeology performed underwater. Due to the difficulties in accessing and working in underwater sites, the development of this science has been relatively slower than other branches of archaeology. However, with time, it has grown into a full-fledged subject with different articulate branches of its own. Samudrayaan aims to help scientists and then eventually all of us to dive deeper into the infinity of the ocean.
Ocean mining for rare minerals- Ocean mining, or deep-sea mining is the process of retrieving mineral deposits from the deep sea; the area below 200 m in the sea. Human development and evolution have had its toll on us. We are slowly running out of resources and as basic human tendency suggests, diving and digging into the deep sea for minerals that are present in little to no amounts anymore, seems like one of our last safe resorts. Hence, Samudrayaan aims to provide us with a deeper insight into the treasure of resources underneath.
Exploration of polymetallic nodules from the seabed- Also known as Manganese Nodules, they are rock concretions on the sea bottom formed of concentric layers of iron and manganese hydroxides around a core. They comprise valuable metals and are available in vast quantities in the sea. Hence, deposits of Polymetallic Nodules have major economic importance. India was allocated 75,000 sq. km in the Central Indian Ocean Basin by the International Seabed Authority, for the exploration of polymetallic nodules alone. Estimated resource of polymetallic nodules is about 380 million tonnes, containing 4.7 million tonnes of Nickel, 4.29 million tonnes of Copper, 0.55 million tonnes of Cobalt, and 92.59 million tonnes of Manganese. With Samudrayaan, the future definitely holds us putting this fact to our use!
The Samudrayaan is a part of the Ministry of Earth Science’s pilot projects which is being undertaken by the National Institute of Ocean Technology, (NIOT) Chennai. It is supposedly going to commence in phases and the main mining is expected to begin in 2022. Out of the total expenditure of the Deep Ocean Mission, a total of Rs. 200 crores have been allocated to Samudrayaan.
The apparatus that is being used; a submersible vehicle. It has the ability to delve deep into the ocean; as deep as 6000 m/6 km. It has the capacity of carrying 3 people to such depth for around 72 hours. As already mentioned by the authorities, usual submarines only go as far as about 200 m into the ocean.
Not only is this project scientifically important, but it also holds political significance because it will help strengthen India’s International standing. China, France, Germany, Japan, South Korea, Russia and also some small islands such as the Cook Islands and Kiribati have already joined the race for deep-sea mining. Most of the countries have tested their technologies in shallow waters and are yet to start deep-sea extraction. Hence, with Samudrayaan, India will become one of the very few nations who have been able to carry out such a project, and maybe even the first developing country to do so.