We're often taught that a hypothesis is the first step in the scientific method. In actuality, what comes first is an observation - a rare commodity for ocean scientists.
The NOAA ship Okeanos Explorer is nicknamed America's Ship for Ocean Exploration. Not science. Exploration.
What's the difference? Science is about testing ideas - hypotheses - through experimentation. Exploration is simply observing the world around us, although in the deep sea it's far from simple. It's technically challenging and it's expensive.
That's why it's estimated only 5 percent of the world's ocean has been seen by human eyes. And since observations are the necessary starting material for developing good, interesting questions to investigate scientifically, that's a problem for ocean scientists.
Enter the NOAA ship Okeanos Explorer. This ship is dedicated to deep sea exploration, and it's pioneering a new technique, known as telepresence. The ship broadcasts deep sea video from a remotely operated vehicle to the internet in near real-time - a 10 second delay for the public (you can check it out here), but just a 2-5 second delay for scientists participating in an expedition. Those scientists also have the ability to talk to each other and back to the ship, enabling them to work in collaboration to identify what's being seen and make decisions about how to proceed.
Scientists involved with the Okeanos Explorer say it's exciting and worthwhile work that's accelerating education of young scientists and catalyzing new ocean research.