Titanic’s discoverer: Exploration should focus on oceans, not Mars

Inner space, not outer space, will be mankind’s salvation from exploding populations and diminishing agricultural lands, deep sea explorer and oceanographer Robert Ballard told ECU students Thursday.

Ballard, popularly known for his 1985 discovery of the Titanic, held and question and answer session met with about 30 members of East Carolina University’s Honors College Thursday afternoon. Ballard was on East Carolina University’s campus to launch the 2017-18 season of the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences Voyages of Discovery Series.

Prior to the Q&A Ballard spoke to several classes.

The session began with a study asking Ballard for his predictions about the future of oceanography. Ballard said the world needed to reprioritize its spending from outer space exploration to investigating the spaces beneath the ocean.

“I don’t see Mars as an option (for future colonization),” Ballard said. “I really think there is a mistake in thinking there is a Plan B. We’re not getting off this planet.”

Ballard said humans will never be able to establish a sustainable, large-scale colony on Mars.

We must adjust our thinking about Earth and what its resources offer.

“Ninety-five percent of people are living on less than 5 percent of the planet,” Ballard said. “We are filling that 5 percent with humans.”

Ballard, 75, said while humans, through commercial fishing, have nearly stripped the ocean of its apex predators — tuna, salmon and swordfish — there are opportunities to manage fisheries production without harming coastal waters. An Australian researcher is working on a project that would make tuna farming possible in waters 28 miles off that nation’s coast, compared to the traditional near-shore zone of 18 miles, more economical, he said.

Ballard said the United States needs to invest in more underwater mapping projects before it can fully contemplate the resources the ocean can offer.

“Maps proceed discovery,” Ballard said.


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