Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Navy, Scripps Christen Research Vessel

By Mark Edward Nero

The US Navy and Scripps Institution of Oceanography christened the first vessel in the national research fleet named for a female scientist on Aug. 9. A crowd of more than 150 dignitaries formally welcomed the R/V Sally Ride at the Anacortes, Washington shipyard where it is being built.

“This vessel is going to be a general purpose oceanographic research vessel operated through the University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System, or UNOLS, for the benefit of entire US academic research community,” Scripps Associate Director Bruce Appelgate, head of Scripps Ship Operations, said.

The Neil Armstrong class of vessels, of which R/V Sally Ride is a member, features a suite of oceanographic equipment, acoustic equipment capable of mapping the deepest parts of the oceans, over-the-side handling gear to deploy and retrieve scientific instruments, emissions controls for stack gasses and new information technology tools both for monitoring shipboard systems and for communicating with land-based sites worldwide.

Substantial construction and outfitting of the 238-foot vessel remains, however. Scripps anticipates taking delivery of the vessel in mid-2015 and then spending at least six months field-testing it.

The R/V Sally Ride will be manned by a commercial crew and operated by Scripps under a charter-party agreement with the Office of Naval Research.

The US Navy now owns six of the nation’s largest oceanographic research ships, and the R/V Sally Ride is now the fifth ship currently serving the Navy to be named for an astronaut. Others include the recently christened R/V Neil Armstrong (AGOR 27), the mobile landing platform John Glenn (MLP 2) and dry cargo and ammunition ships Wally Schirra (T-AKE 8) and Alan Shepard (T-AKE 3).

The R/V Sally Ride was named after Sally Ride, the scientist, innovator and educator who was the first American woman and youngest person in space. Ride later served as director of NASA's Office of Exploration and the California Space Institute at the University of California, San Diego.