Field Reports & Away Teams

Alan Stern's Titanic Away Team Journal: Of Exploration, Moonlight, and July 19th.

By Keith Cowing
Alan Stern
July 19, 2022
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Alan Stern's Titanic Away Team Journal: Of Exploration, Moonlight, and July 19th.

Continuing my #TitanicExpedition blog posts on the behest of Keith Cowing with this for you. Share please if you like!

Today our expedition’s A dive to Titanic took place here at OceanGate Expeditions. I was up for it before 3 a.m. and on deck by 4 a.m. to observe and learn from the pre-dive preps. The actual dive commenced with deployment of the sub, Titan, into the ocean about 7:15 a.m., and submerging the craft roughly 25 min later.

The dive ended after almost 10 hours, with a successful 3-hour exploration around the Titanic, 4000 meters beneath us here on the surface.

My own team’s dive, called B dive, will be Friday, after two days of expected bad seas in between, not suitable for sub operations.

As today’s 10-hour mission took place, I thought a lot about the fact that today is the anniversary of the first human lunar landing, by Apollo 11, on 19 July 1969. The parallels between Apollo 11 and our Titanic dives are few, but both are truly missions of exploration.

However, whereas Apollo 11’s lunar exploration missions was exceptionally truly historic, these Titanic exploration missions were more so one of personal adventure and accomplishments for the submersible’s crews, with of course some science as icing to that cake.

Reflecting on this myself today, I was deeply struck by how amazing it is that regular people can, at comparatively affordable prices, undertake such a heretofore unparalleled exploration of the Titanic, on the deep ocean bottom here in the North Atlantic.

Late in his life, I got to know Neil Armstrong who commanded Apollo 11. We served together on the NASA Advisory Council (“the NAC”), and Neil keynoted the Next Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference at my invitation in 2012, just months before he died. This morning as I watched the launch preps and launch of our submersible Titan and its crew of five, I wished Neil could have been here with us. He would have loved it in so many ways, and he would have been fascinated by Titan’s technology and its carefully choreographed mission operations as well. But most of all, I think Neil would have appreciated the bold and adventurous spirit of exploration that OceanGate Expeditions and its crews embody in making journeys to the Titanic.

Hail Apollo 11! Hail everyone who participated in Apollo! And hail to explorers everywhere, for their courage and daring, for their risk taking, and for the example they set to motivate others to accomplish things larger than life, and to be a part of everything good that derives from humans exploring other worlds and also the many corners of our own planet.

If you get the chance tonight, consider going out to find the Moon and thinking about Apollo 11’s landing of humans on Luna so long ago, and what a watershed in human history it was.

And if you would, think too about the moonlight bathing you that also bathes our submersible Titan back in its moorings aboard its mother ship Arctic Horizon. That moonlight, some of it coming directly from the Apollo 11 landing site at Tranquility base, illuminates my own way forward to a personal exploration of the Titanic set for Friday, just as it may I hope beckon you forward to important explorations of your own.

Here’s to the long history of exploration as personal achievement, here’s to moonlight, and here’s to Neil and the rest of us too when long-sought dreams do come true!

SpaceRef co-founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.