A submersible with five people on board, including a space tourist and a SETI trustee, is missing during a dive near the Titanic.
Explorer Hamish Harding, who flew with Blue Origin in 2022, and SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) trustee Shahzada Dawood are among the crew members. The submersible fell silent Sunday (June 18); Blue Origin and the SETI Institute have not yet issued statements about the matter.
Also on the crew is Dawood's son, Suleman; French explorer and long-time Titanic researcher Paul-Henri Nargeolet; and Stockton Rush, founder and CEO of the vessel's U.S.-based company OceanGate, according to multiple media reports.
"The U.S. Coast Guard was racing against time on Tuesday and facing a host of extreme logistical challenges, including crushing pressure deep below the ocean," the New York Times wrote of the ongoing search.
"The submersible, the Titan, had been in the area to explore the wreck of the Titanic," the Times added, noting the vessel was roughly halfway through what should have been a 2.5-hour dive. "The submersible is thought to be equipped with only a few days' worth of oxygen," the report added.
Harding flew on Blue Origin's NS-21 space tourism flight on June 4, 2022. He is the founder of business-jet brokerage company Action Aviation, as well as a pilot and adventurer. Harding holds several aviation records and has visited the south pole twice. He also has explored the Challenger Deep, the deepest known spot on Earth's seafloor.
"Hoping for the best for my good friend and fellow explorer Hamish Harding and his crewmates aboard the submersible Titan, who were in the Atlantic Ocean exploring the Titanic. Thanks and appreciation to the tremendous rescue operation underway now," wrote retired NASA astronaut Terry Virts on Twitter. Virts and Harding together broke a round-the-world record for an aircraft flying over both the north and south poles.
Dawood, aside from serving as a SETI trustee, is vice-chair of Pakistani family business Dawood Hercules Corp. and oversees the larger Dawood Group's technology spending, according to his SETI biography. His business and charitable focuses also include clean energy, education and inclusive business models for low-income communities.
RMS Titanic, a British passenger ship operated by White Star Line, famously struck an iceberg on April 15, 1912 during its first voyage and sunk, killing about two-thirds of its more than 2,000 passengers on board. The events of its voyage have been covered many times in fiction, most notably in 1997's eponymous Hollywood movie "Titanic" starring Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio that won numerous Academy Awards.
After decades of searches, Titanic's location was discovered in 1985 during a Franco-American expedition led by Jean-Louis Michel and Robert Ballard.
Titanic is roughly 2.4 miles (3.8 km) below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean and its depth "greatly exceeds" the ability of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation's (NATO) ability to assist the missing submersible, a spokesperson for the United Kingdom's Ministry of Defense told ABC News.
"As the host nation for NATO's multinational submarine rescue capability, we continue to monitor the incident in the North Atlantic and will guide and assist in any response activity as appropriate," the spokesperson added.
The ship remains a popular destination for visits among underwater explorers. New Horizons Pluto scientist Alan Stern, for example, visited Titanic with OceanGate in 2022.
"I have been doing a lot of thinking about this. A 100 years from now, somebody like me could be piloting down into Europa's ocean or Enceladus's or Pluto's deep ocean in submersibles," Stern told Space.com in 2022. "I thought a lot about this expedition to Titanic. There are so many layers to the whole thing that made it interesting: science, history, tragedy, archeology, exploration and adventure."