Why exploring the ocean is mankind's next giant leap
By Philippe Cousteau, Special to CNN
“Space…the final frontier.” Not only has this classic phrase dazzled the many millions of fans of the Star Trek franchise, some could argue it has defined a big part of the American ideal for the last 50 years. The 1960s were dominated by the race to the moon and Americans were rightfully proud to be the first nation to make it there. However, another incredible feat happened in 1960 that is largely forgotten today. For the first time in history, on January 23, 1960, two men, Lt. Don Walsh and Jacques Picard, descended to the deepest part of the ocean, the bottom of the Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench located in the western Pacific Ocean. While this feat made international news, the race to the depths of this planet was quickly overshadowed by the race to the moon - and no one has ever gone that deep since. And for the last 50 years, we have largely continued to look up. But that trend may be changing. In July 2011, the space shuttle program that had promised to revolutionize space travel by making it (relatively) affordable and accessible came to an end after 30 years. Those three decades provided numerous technological, scientific and diplomatic firsts. With an estimated price tag of nearly $200 billion, the program had its champions and its detractors. It was, however, a source of pride for the United States, capturing the American spirit of innovation and leadership. With the iconic space program ending, many people have asked, "What’s next? What is the next giant leap in scientific and technological innovation?" Today a possible answer to that question has been announced. And it does not entail straining our necks to look skyward. Finally, there is a growing recognition that some of the most important discoveries and opportunities for innovation may lie beneath what covers more than 70 percent of our planet – the ocean. Filmmaker James Cameron...
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