The Monterey Accelerated Research System (MARS) is part of the the Monterey Ocean Observing System (MOOS) ocean initiative developed at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI). MBARI was an inaugural member of the University of Washington-led partnership known as NEPTUNE that was formed in 2000 with the goal of building a cabled ocean observatory that would encircle the Juan de Fuca tectonic plate. Other NEPTUNE Partners included Caltech's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which helped develop the power system and subsystems, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Insititution, which helped develop data and communication systems, and NEPTUNE Canada, now at the University of Victoria. Feasibility studies and benchtop demonstrations for the U.S. NEPTUNE were funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Oceanographic Partnership Program.
In 2002, a $7M grant was awarded to MBARI from the National Science Foundation to construct a deep-water test bed in Monterey Bay for the NEPTUNE cabled observatory. Additional funds were secured from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation ($1.8M) and from Canadian partners that were then part of the NEPTUNE team ($1.2M). A significant technological driver for the development of MARS was to design and implement high-power nodes for seafloor use.
MARS is now fully operational with 52 km of submarine cable and a node at 891 meters water depth (2,923 feet). Examples of science experiments on MARS include deployment of ORCA's Eye-in-the-Sea experiment to examine animals that thrive in the deep sea where sunlight does not penetrate; installation of a seafloor seismometer to study offshore earthquakes; and deployment of a benthic ROVER to investigate the carbon cycle at the seafloor-ocean interface. Expansion capabilites on this system allow scientists and researchers to take advantage of the real-time power and data transmission capabilities required to develop novel sensors for deployment in ocean environments.