Developments to Watch
MID-ATLANTIC--THE FINAL FRONTIER?
Like its lookalike, the starship Enterprise, the NCC-1701 will go where no one has gone before--only down, not up. Scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution are
almost ready to send their $1 million robotic submarine on its maiden deep-sea dive. The craft looks so much like the Enterprise that engineer
Albert M. Bradley had the same designation number painted on its side.
Eventually, this inner-space ship will descend to 20,000 feet and hang around on the sea floor for months on end. During prolonged studies of such phenomena as the "black smoker" vents that Woods Hole discovered in the mid-Atlantic seabed in 1977, the sub will periodically go to sleep to conserve battery power. Among its chief targets will be the enzymes that manage to thrive in the superhot water around the smokers. Such enzymes might open the door to new high-temperature industrial processes that aren't now feasible.EDITED BY OTIS PORT