The International Space Station has given humanity a foothold in space; should we have an equivalent station rounding Earth's oceans? A team is currently working to make their floating oceanographic laboratory a watery reality.

Architect Jacques Rougerie, whose designs are frequently centered on marine living, has teamed up with oceanographer Jacques Piccard and astronaut Jean-Loup Chretien to develop the concept for the SeaOrbiter, a semi-submersible laboratory. The idea is to give oceanographic researchers a permanent base of operations in the ocean, much like the ISS provides in Earth's orbit. The concept designs for the SeaOrbiter include living quarters, laboratories, and a pressurized deck to allow residents to take daily dives. Rougerie believes that such a base, which would allow researchers to go on months-long missions, would improve our understanding of the oceans:

At the moment, they [oceanographers] can dive only for short periods before they have to be brought back to the surface. It is as though they were taken to study the Amazon jungle and then helicoptered away again after an hour...SeaOrbiter will provide a permanent mobile presence with a window to what is under the surface of the sea.

Rougerie claims that he has half of the €35million needed to complete the SeaOrbiter, and plans are to launch the floating lab in 2011.

One giant leap for ocean exploration [Times Online via Geekologie]