A scientific mission to seek out new life and maybe some more duct tape. And baling wire.

Nature bemoans the fact that America’s technological prowess is on the wane – and it’s getting really obvious that our science fleet has seen better days:

“The community is deeply concerned that the ability to go to sea will be significantly reduced in the next decade, as research ships are retired or laid up,” says Mark Abbott, dean of the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences at Oregon State University in Corvallis. The average age of the ships is more than 23 years, and many are scheduled to retire in the coming years.

The more aged parts of the fleet lack features crucial for much research, such as the ability to stay exactly in position at sea.