What Was NASA’s Role In Developing The Doomed Titan Sub?

Screenshot / CBS Sunday Morning

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Jake Smith Contributor
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The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) had a deal with submersible company OceanGate to collaborate on the materials and manufacturing process of the Titan craft that imploded while exploring the wreck of the Titanic, according to public statements and contract documents.

The Titan likely suffered a “catastrophic implosion” during its expedition, killing all five people on board, the Coast Guard said Thursday; however, OceanGate claimed that NASA played a pivotal role in the “development and manufacturing” of the doomed submersible. In truth, OceanGate had a formal agreement with the agency to provide “institutional and mission support,” according to NASA contract documents, while NASA has stated it did not “conduct testing and manufacturing” with the company, and instead only acted as a consultant.

OceanGate had a Space Act Agreement with NASA, which enables the agency to partner with non-governmental organizations to collaborate on projects “in order to meet wide-ranging NASA mission and program requirements and objectives.” OceanGate was to reimburse NASA $148,874 for the partnership, according to the documents, though whether OceanGate paid the amount, or how much it paid in total, is unclear.

NASA has stated that it only acted as a consultant for the manufacturing process, not as the actual manufacturer itself. (RELATED: US Navy Heard Titan Submersible Implode Days Ago: REPORT)

“NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center had a Space Act Agreement with OceanGate and consulted on materials and manufacturing processes for the submersible. NASA did not conduct testing and manufacturing via its workforce or facilities, which were done elsewhere by OceanGate,” said Lance D. Davis, acting news chief for NASA’s Marshall Center, in a statement to the Daily Caller News Foundation.

OceanGate, however, portrayed the relationship as significantly more involved.

In 2020, OceanGate announced the partnership with NASA to collaborate on the development and manufacturing process for a new submersible design, according to a press release. OceanGate intended to manufacture the submersible’s hull on-site at a NASA facility in Alabama.

“NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, will serve as the facility where the development and manufacturing of a new aerospace-grade hull is completed,” reads the statement. “NASA’s advanced composite manufacturing capability is ideally suited for the high precision and high-quality requirements for our latest hull design.”

Furthermore, Stockton Rush, a victim of the Titan disaster and OceanGate’s former CEO, referenced NASA’s apparent involvement in an interview with CBS News last December.

“The pressure vessel is not MacGyvered at all because that’s where we worked with Boeing and NASA,” said Rush. “Everything else can fail. Your thrusters can go, your lights can go. You’re still going to be safe.”

OceanGate had previously claimed that Boeing was also a collaborator on the Titan submersible. Boeing has said it had no involvement in the Titan’s development, in a statement made to Business Insider.

“Boeing was not a partner on the Titan and did not design or build it,” reads the statement from Boeing. “We are deeply saddened by the reports of a catastrophic implosion involving the Titan submersible. We extend our heartfelt condolences to the crew members’ families for their loss.”

OceanGate did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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