The ocean and outer space share some interesting similarities despite being vastly different environments. Both are mysterious, alien worlds that humans have only begun to explore in the last century. They both present unique challenges and dangers to the brave explorers who venture into their depths. And they both still hold many secrets waiting to be uncovered.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at some of the ways the ocean and space are alike. We’ll explore how they compare in terms of mystery, danger, exploration challenges, and potential for discovery. Knowing the parallels between these two frontier environments can give us a new appreciation for the wonders they each contain.
Vastness and Mystery
One major thing the ocean and space have in common is their vastness and mystery. Humans have only uncovered a fraction of what lies beneath the ocean’s surface and beyond our atmosphere.
More than 80% of the ocean floor remains unmapped, unobserved, and unexplored. The ocean covers over 70% of the planet, reaches depths of up to 6.8 miles, and contains nearly 1.3 billion cubic kilometers of water. With so much left undiscovered, it’s no wonder the ocean presents a huge mystery.
Space is even more vast and full of unknowns. The observable universe contains at least 2 trillion galaxies spanning over 90 billion light years. Despite huge advances in space exploration, astronomy, and physics, experts estimate over 95% of the universe consists of dark matter and dark energy we know almost nothing about. Like the ocean depths, space represents a giant mystery waiting to be uncovered.
Danger and Difficulty
Another similarity between the ocean and outer space is the danger and difficulty they pose to human explorers. Both present challenges that require specialized technology, training, and caution.
The extreme water pressure, lack of oxygen, potential for equipment failure, and presence of large sea creatures all contribute to the dangers divers face in the ocean. Nearly all ocean exploration requires an array of advanced submersibles, remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), and complex life support systems. Similarly, the lack of air, extreme temperatures, radiation, meteoroids, and communication lags in space make it exceptionally hazardous for astronauts. Space exploration requires advanced spacecraft, spacesuits, and training to survive.
In addition to danger, both environments make exploration extremely difficult. The technological leaps needed to reach new depths or travel greater distances take immense effort and investment. While robotic exploration has made great strides, nothing can fully replace having humans present to observe and conduct experiments. Safely sending humans to the furthest regions of the ocean and space remains a monumental challenge.
Despite the barriers, exploring the ocean and space leads to awe-inspiring discoveries. New species, geological features, and previously unknown realms continue to be uncovered across the ocean. Over 2,000 new marine species are identified each year, from microorganisms to mega-fauna. The discovery of hydrothermal vents in the 1970s and surveys of seamounts and canyons in recent years reveal how much we still don’t know.
Equally monumental discoveries occur in outer space exploration. Missions show us new views of planets, moons, asteroids, comets, stars, nebulae, and exoplanets. We’ve identified supermassive black holes, gravitational waves, and components of the early universe. Space-based telescopes have radically expanded our understanding of the universe and its origins. But we’ve only begun to scratch the surface of all there is left to uncover in space.
A final similarity between the ocean and space is their vast potential. Both hold immense value for science, climate study, natural resources, and technology development.
Thousands of new marine species yield advances in biomedicine and biotechnology. Seafloor mineral deposits have expanding commercial potential. Ocean ecosystems support climate regulation and provide food for billions. Understanding the ocean better can help protect these invaluable assets.
From space, we’ve gained orbiting satellites supporting our modern connected world. Materials processing and pharmaceutical research onboard the International Space Station offer economic and scientific value. Asteroid mining could provide rare metals. Rockets and spacecraft developed for space travel have spun off important technology we use on Earth. And space research expands our scientific knowledge exponentially.
Fully utilizing the potential value the ocean and space offer will require overcoming their challenges. But investment in exploring and understanding these environments always yields long-term rewards.
Similarities and Differences
For all their similarities, there are also ways the ocean and space fundamentally differ. The ocean is a physical place on Earth, filled with liquid water. Space is an empty void spanning the universe beyond Earth’s atmosphere. The ocean supports life, while no life is known to exist in space. Wave motion, currents, and tides drive the ocean, while space is governed by gravitational forces.
So while both represent giant mysterious expanses, the ocean is grounded on Earth while space is detached from our planet. The rules governing each environment, the logistics of exploring them, and the lifeforms that inhabit them remain distinct. But their shared qualities of danger, difficulty, and discovery potential unite them in the human imagination.
The parallels between the ocean and outer space run deep. As the final frontiers on and off our planet, they present comparable challenges of distance, pressure, lack of oxygen, and more. To explore their farthest reaches takes immensely complex technology and skill. But their mysteries compel us to brave the danger, expense, and effort. What we find there continues to amaze us, whether it’s new marine species, insights into climate change, or glimpses of the early universe. While distinct in many ways, the promise of more discoveries to come link the ocean and space as compelling domains for human curiosity and imagination. Their vast potential can only be realized by continued deep sea and space exploration.