Mar. 4 - Deep sea exploration is set to take a big step forward with the creation of an advanced Exosuit, designed to take free-diving humans deeper than ever before. The suit will allow explorers to interact with marine species in their own habitat and open new doors to discovery. Rob Muir has more.
Its developers say the Exosuit will open new vistas in deep sea exploration. Unveiled officially at the American Museum of History in New York, the suit is designed to support a human at a depth of 1000 feet for hours at a time, giving divers unprecedented access to life in the deep ocean, according to the museum's Michael Lombardi. (SOUNDBITE) MICHAEL LOMBARDI, DIVING SAFETY OFFICER, AMERICAN MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY, SAYING: "You know, it's ten times the depth of conventional, recreational SCUBA. Certainly, three or four times the depth of even advanced SCUBA for working purposes." And that work could not only advance human knowledge of new species but also of biomedicine. Many of the creatures that inhabit deep ocean waters emit bioluminescence using proteins that scientists could adapt for use in humans, for tracking progressive diseases like cancer, or identifying specific cells in the human brain. The Exosuit is resistant to compression and can be steered by the diver. Museum marine researcher John Sparks says he's excited by the possibilities. (SOUNDBITE) JOHN SPARKS, CURATOR OF THE DEPARTMENT OF ICHTHYOLOGY, AMERICAN MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY, SAYING: "It's incredibly exciting for us. I mean the area the Exosuit can sample has been basically out of reach to us in terms of collecting fish and studying their flashing patterns for looking at bioluminescent patterns in them. We have been able to use submersibles, but they're clunky. They're not very maneuverable. So we can close to them, but the fish swim away and we can't really collect them very well. The suit, we envision, will be able to put collecting mechanisms on it so that the pilot or the diver in the suit can actually get down there and interact with the organisms, kind of collect them one by one or in groups. And then we can image them and we can either collect them and bring them to the surface under pressure, so they don't get destroyed, or release them." The Exosuit will gets its first real test in July, when a team will use it to explore part of an Atlantic canyon, ten thousand feet deep off the coast of New England. The suit won't go that deep but will give a free-diving human access to a previously inaccessible world.