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SeaOrbiter / Jacques Rougerie

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This is the Starship Enterprise of sea exploration

French architect Jacques Rougerie wants to fund an ocean laboratory straight out of science fiction. He just needs $48 million to do it.

French architect and oceanographer Jacques Rougerie has spent more than 30 years researching underwater habitats, and even launched his own design firm for that purpose. His pet project, though, is considerably more ambitious. Drawing inspiration from Jules Verne's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Rougerie's SeaOrbiter is a 190-foot tall floating laboratory — complete with space simulator and submersible garage.

The SeaOrbiter has been in development for the better part of a decade. Meant to run on a combination of solar and wind power, Rougerie wants the vessel to be as sustainable and unobtrusive to oceanic ecosystems as possible. The facility would be run by a crew of at least 18 people, who would serve to observe life above and below water, manage data, and explore the depths in an array of submersibles that can be used to collect samples. In addition, the submerged part of the vessel houses simulators, meant to gauge how humans might cope with long-term space travel. The dream is for the ship to help better explore the world's oceans, 95 percent of which remain unexplored.

Already equipped with a clear vision, the only obstacle left is funding. While Rougerie managed to raise an impressive $466 thousand via French crowdfunding site KissKissBankBank earlier this year, the total cost of launching the SeaOrbiter is approximately $48 million. If he succeeds, he can launch the craft by year's end in 2016. Here's hoping he pulls it off.


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