India, having previously ventured to the moon, is now setting its sights on the depths of the ocean, aiming to explore valuable mineral deposits. The “Samudrayaan” mission will deploy the Matsya 6000 submersible off the Chennai coast in early 2024, with a crew of three on board.
While the ultimate goal is to reach depths of 6000 meters, the initial dive will be limited to 600 meters. In October 2021, an unmanned probe successfully reached this depth, and researchers plan to reach the full 6000 meters by 2026.
Initiated in 2018, the Samudrayaan project is led by the National Institute of Ocean Technology in Chennai, and the submersible itself has been built by ISRO, renowned for crafting rockets capable of withstanding the rigors of space travel. The mission will be conducted by two researchers and an operator, departing from Chennai. Earth Sciences Minister Kiran Rijiju recently inspected the submersible.
Unlike submersibles created by other nations, Matsya 6000 is entirely domestically produced. It is constructed with an 80 mm thick titanium alloy shell to withstand the extreme pressures found 6000 meters below the surface, and its spherical design helps equalize water pressure. The submersible can accommodate three occupants.
Controlled from a specially designed ship and deployed into the deep sea, Matsya 6000 relies on acoustic waves for communication. It is capable of remaining submerged for 12-16 hours and carries 96 hours’ worth of oxygen to ensure passenger safety in case of emergencies.
The project, spanning five years, comes with a cost of Rs 4077 crores, with the Matsya 6000 submersible itself accounting for Rs 350 crores. The primary objective is to search for valuable metals and minerals like cobalt, nickel, manganese, copper, and iron hydroxide, which find applications in electronic materials, smartphones, batteries, solar panels, and more. Successful mining of these resources in the deep sea could offer significant advantages in the realms of energy and electronics.