The @nytimes missed a great chance to suggest what astronauts can do as NASA changes: go deep, into the ocean that is

I just got home from a day in the East Bay with family and read with great interest the above the fold story in the New York Times about NASA Astronauts looking for something else to do these days: With Flights Winding Down, NASA Astronauts Seek New Opportunities. While I for one wish we would keep sending people into space (well, that is, if they want to go), I think if space trips are cut back for some time there is something that the astronauts could do in the meantime which would be really really valuable. They could work to explore more of Earth, especially the oceans. Having just come back from a trip to USC’s Wrigley Marine Ctr on Catalina Island where I met Chris Welsh and Loretta Whitesides, who are involved in the Virgin Oceanic deep-sea exploration project, I find it surprising that the New York Times article did not mention at all the need for more people to explore the depths of the oceans. Sure, it may not be quite as glamorous as space travel, but it is both difficult and very interesting. I do not personally think that space exploration and ocean exploration are mutually exclusive – we need to do both. But if there is a lull in space exploration for some time and people are looking for something to do – I would suggest they look down. Deep down. And while I am at it – I think the government should greatly expand deep sea exploration programs so we can learn as much about the oceans as we know about space.

Author: Jonathan Eisen

I am an evolutionary biologist and a Professor at U. C. Davis. (see my lab site here). My research focuses on the origin of novelty (how new processes and functions originate). To study this I focus on sequencing and analyzing genomes of organisms, especially microbes and using phylogenomic analysis

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