OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush Breaks Rules in Design of Titan Sub that Imploded

The tragic implosion of OceanGate’s submersible, which claimed the lives of five daring tourists exploring the ocean’s depths, has cast a spotlight on the company and, in particular, the design decisions made by its CEO, Stockton Rush.

In a recently resurfaced video from 2021, Stockton Rush can be seen discussing his unconventional approach to enable expeditions to the iconic Titanic wreckage.

Breaking free from traditional norms, Rush openly admits to bending the rules in order to accomplish his company’s ambitious goals.

Drawing inspiration from the words of General Douglas MacArthur, who once said, “You’re remembered for the rules you break,” Rush emphasizes his desire to be remembered as an innovator, fueled by logic and robust engineering.

During an interview with vlogger Alan Estrada, Rush delves into the specifics of the submersible’s design, which has come under scrutiny following the recent events.

One of the key elements he highlights is the use of carbon fiber and titanium, two materials rarely combined in this context.

Despite the skepticism surrounding this choice, Rush defends his decision, asserting that selectively breaking established rules can bring value not only to his company but also to society as a whole.

Will Kohnen, chairman of the Manned Underwater Vehicles Committee of the Marine Technology Society, sheds light on the uniqueness of OceanGate’s approach.

Carbon fiber, while offering high tensile strength, had never been employed for a pressure hull at such depths.

This uncharted territory presents challenges in testing and verifying the material’s behavior under extreme pressures. Understanding how carbon fiber handles compression remains an area that necessitates further research.

Another notable aspect of the submersible is its 7-inch-thick acrylic plexiglass window, designed to withstand tremendous underwater pressures.

Rush explains that rather than shattering, the window undergoes deformation, emitting audible signs of stress before reaching critical failure. This feature provides a crucial warning system, affording the crew valuable time to react.

It is important to note that Rush’s comments were made during the submersible’s trial phase, as Estrada clarifies in the video. Despite ongoing refinement, Rush’s visionary aspirations for the vessel remained unwavering.

He envisions a future where the submersible integrates advanced technology, capable of recognizing voices and seamlessly interacting with its occupants.

Rush’s ultimate goal is to transform the submersible into an effortless and intuitive means of exploration, akin to stepping into an elevator rather than navigating an array of buttons and switches.

Following the submersible’s disappearance, Estrada reveals that communication was lost at a depth of approximately 3,280 feet, around one hour and forty-five minutes into the ill-fated OceanGate excursion.

David Pogue, a CBS News correspondent who had previously embarked on the Titan submersible, acknowledges certain aspects that may have appeared less sophisticated during his experience.

Pogue recalls discussing these observations with Rush, who emphasized the paramount importance of the carbon fiber cylinder and titanium end caps as the key elements responsible for ensuring the safety and survival of the crew.

Pogue reminds us that Rush, a Princeton-educated aerospace engineer with a background in building airplanes and designing submersibles, incorporated NASA’s consultation in the design process.

Moreover, the Titan submersible had successfully completed twenty dives to the sea floor without incident prior to the recent tragedy.

While questions arise regarding Rush’s design choices, it is essential to recognize his expertise and qualifications.

Rush’s background, coupled with his collaboration with esteemed institutions such as NASA, underpins his commitment to engineering a submersible capable of withstanding the most challenging environments.

It is through hindsight that imperfections come to light, but at the time of its creation, the significance of these details may not have been apparent to anyone involved.

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