Following the triumph of Chandrayaan-3, India’s lunar mission, Indian scientists are embarking on a new frontier: deep-sea exploration through Project Samudrayaan. This ambitious undertaking involves sending a team of three individuals into the ocean’s depths, 6,000 meters underwater, aboard an indigenously developed submersible called Matsya 6000. They aim to search for valuable metals and minerals, including cobalt, nickel, and manganese.
The creation of Matsya 6000 has been a meticulous two-year process, and the submersible is set to undergo its inaugural sea trials in early 2024 in the Bay of Bengal, off the coast of Chennai. This project has gained even more significance following the unfortunate implosion of the Titan submersible, which was carrying tourists to explore the Titanic wreckage in the North Atlantic Ocean in June 2023. Consequently, scientists are leaving no stone unturned in scrutinising Matsya 6000’s design and safety measures.
The National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT) is spearheading the development of Matsya 6000, and its scientists are conducting a rigorous assessment of the submersible’s design, materials, testing protocols, certification, redundancy measures, and operational guidelines.
The Samudrayaan mission is slated for completion by 2026. Notably, only a handful of countries, including the United States, Russia, Japan, France, and China, have succeeded in developing manned submersibles.
In addition to the quest for valuable minerals, such as nickel, cobalt, manganese, hydrothermal sulphides, and gas hydrates, Matsya 6000 will also explore the chemosynthetic biodiversity residing in hydrothermal vents and low-temperature methane seeps in the ocean.
G A Ramadass, Director of NIOT, revealed that a critical component of Matsya 6000 is its 2.1-meter diameter sphere designed to accommodate three occupants. Constructed from an 80mm-thick titanium alloy, this sphere is engineered to withstand the extraordinary pressure of 600 bar, equivalent to 600 times the atmospheric pressure at sea level, experienced at a depth of 6,000 meters. The submersible is engineered for continuous operation lasting 12 to 16 hours and boasts a 96-hour oxygen supply, ensuring the safety and success of this pioneering deep-sea exploration mission.