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OPTIONS FOR SCIENTIFIC OCEAN DRILLING INTRODUCTION The Committee on Ocean Drilling was formed at the behest of the Congress, which, in authorizing the National Science Foundation's appropriations for FY1981, stated that "the National Academy of Sciences shall study marine earth science research and report to the Congress." Although stated in these general terms, the request was made with respect to NSF's proposed Ocean Margin Drilling Program (OMDP) and was defined by NSF as asking the Academy to "examine the scientific worth of the OMDP in terms of the overall research goals in the geological sciences especially as related to the marine areas." Under this charge the Committee began its work. Soon after the Committee's inception, however, a series of events drastically modified NSF's proposed program and refocused the Committee's charge to include an overall appraisal of the merits of ocean drilling in general and a comparison of several available operating options. It is on this modified charge that the Committee has concentrated its attention. BACKGROUND The National Science Foundation's proposed new program of scientific ocean drilling was conceived in the mid-1970's as a follow-on to its highly successful Deep Sea Drilling Project (DSDP). The need for a new program was evidenced by these developments: (1) Glomar Challenger was getting older and would soon need major refurbishment to continue drilling in the deep ocean basins; (2) Drilling by Challenger, plus other surveys, suggested that a number of scientifically significant problems were close to or beyond the limit of Challenger's capabilities; and (3) the Glomar Explorer, originally designed for other work, was available for conversion and had the potential to be a superior drilling vessel.