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Robert Ballard-led team to search for Amelia Earhart's plane

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Robert Ballard-led team to search for Amelia Earhart's plane

Robert Ballard-led team to search for Amelia Earhart's plane

DURHAM, NEW HAMPSHIRE — Researchers have long wondered about what really happened to Amelia Earhart, the first ever female aviator to fly solo.

On July 2, 1937, Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan disappeared without a trace during an attempt to fly across the equator.

Earhart sent their last radio transmissions at 8:43 a.m.

That day, in which she said : "We are on the line 157 337." This means the plane was flying over Howland Island in the Pacific Ocean.

On the basis of those radio messages, researchers believe that the two either flew northwest to the open ocean or to the southeast to Nikumaroro Island.

Now, a new expedition is all set to explore the waters off the island to find out more about the disappearance of Amelia Earhart.

A group of researchers led by National Geographic Explorer Robert Ballard are embarking on a mission on the E/V Nautilus ship to waters off Nikumaroro Island to search for the remnants of Amelia Earhart's plane.

The ship is equipped with multiple exploration tools, including an autonomous surface vehicle developed by the University of New Hampshire called Bathymetric Explorer and Navigator, or BEN.

According to a news release by the university, the vehicle includes features such as the Kongsberg EM2040P multibeam echo-sounder and the Applanix POS/ MV navigation system.

This allows the self-driving vehicle to create 3D topographic maps and acoustic backscatter maps of the ocean floor.

Once the autonomous surface vehicle returns to the ship, researchers will analyze data from the maps and then deploy two remotely operated vehicles called Hercules and Argus, according to National Geographic.

These are typically launched at night and can reach depths of 4,000 meters.

Hercules is able to provide a first person view of the seabed, while the Argus is a smaller vehicle that captures footage of Hercules.

Hercules can collect samples found in the seabed and store them in a container in its side for researchers to analyze.

The mission is the subject of a two-hour documentary titled Expedition Amelia and will air on National Geographic on October 20.

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