Those trying to access the mission dashboard for the live progress of the ship will now find that the ship is offline. Instead, they’re welcomed by a brief message, reading, “MAS400 has developed a small mechanical problem and is going back to base so we investigate further. We hope to get turned around and on our way as soon as possible.”
MAS400 is the official name of the trimaran, the Mayflower Autonomous Ship, a 5-ton, 50-foot (15-meter) tri-hulled ship packed with AI, sensors and tech, and theoretically able to cross the ocean, collect impressive amounts of data, and adjust and optimize course.
It’s a years-long project by research organization ProMare and IBM, which provided most of the software, and it departed from Plymouth, England, heading to Plymouth, Massachusetts by way of the Isles of Scilly and Privincetown on Cape Cod.
ProMare doesn’t offer an estimate for the delay, but once Mayflower is ready to set off again, it should complete the journey in about three weeks. The possibility of a glitch mid-trip was a primary concern from the start, as the video below shows: it’s one thing when something trivial breaks in the middle of the Atlantic and you have a competent crew to fix it, and it’s an entirely different story when there’s no one on board.