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Deep-ocean diving robot Nereus is gone and won't be replaced

It was the only machine capable of exploring the deepest parts of the ocean.

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Last year, the only robot capable of diving into and exploring the deepest ocean trenches (the hadal zone) perished on the job, and now its creators have announced that it will not be replaced. That robot was called Nereus: a hybrid ROV that could either operate autonomously or be controlled remotely by scientists, built by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. It was unique, because it could move and explore hadal zones (parts of the ocean 20,000 feet and below) freely, while the other robots called landers that can reach those depths are designed to sink to the bottom to collect data until they're retrieved. Unfortunately, Nereus imploded in the Pacific Ocean in 2014 due to unknown reasons -- after all, there's no other robot capable of looking for its debris.

According to Nature, the WHOI scientists originally wanted to build a successor to their lost creation, but they ultimately decided to invest the $3 million insurance payout in "less risky projects." Instead of replicating Nereus' capabilities, the team now plans to build landers and improve the institute's other undersea vehicles that can't dive as far down. Don't worry, though: there are other organizations currently developing vehicles that will be able bring us otherworldly footage and specimen samples straight from the deepest trenches of the ocean.

The Schmidt Ocean Institute is planning to build a series of submarines that could lead to one capable of diving as deep as the Nereus could by 2019. And then there's the Shanghai Ocean University in China, which aims to build three landers, an ROV and a human-occupied vehicle, all for the sake of exploring hadal zone.

[Image credit: Advanced Imaging and Visualization Laboratory, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution/Chris German, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution]

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