|NSF pioneered scientific ocean drilling in the late 1960's with the Deep Sea Drilling Project (DSDP), a test of the plate tectonic hypothesis and a basic reconnaissance of deep-sea sediments and crustal rocks. DSDP was followed in 1985 by the Ocean Drilling Program (ODP), the present phase of ocean drilling, which is a focused examination of Earth, ocean and climate processes. NSF provided the primary facility for both DSDP and ODP by contracting and converting an industry drillship for scientific drilling. International participation in planning, research and funding of operations grew from an initial five countries in DSDP to over 20 nations in ODP. ODP drilling operations terminated on September 9, 2003 with completion of a drilling program to study the early rifting history of the North American margin.<br/><br/>Although ODP has terminated as planned, ocean drilling remains an essential capability in modern geoscience research and education and is used to examine processes ranging from changes in the Earth's climate to the rifting and drifting of continents. Drilling is the primary tool for sampling sediment and crustal rock from the 70 percent of the Earth's surface covered by oceans, and is the only technique for sampling anything more than a few meters deeper than the ocean floor. <br/><br/>Based on this continuing requirement for ocean drilling, over 600 ocean and earth scientists have completed an internationally coordinated planning effort to examine the scientific objectives for a new phase of ocean drilling, the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program. Their efforts have resulted in the publication of the initial science plan for the IODP - Earth, Oceans and Life: Scientific Investigations of the Earth System Using Multiple Drilling Platforms and New Technologies. The plan identifies the following three objectives for initial emphasis in IODP: <br/><br/>The Deep Biosphere and the Sub-seafloor Ocean: Drilling will concentrate on expanding our understanding of the architecture and dynamics of the vast subseafloor plumbing system, where flowing water alters rock, modifies the long-term chemistry of the oceans, lubricates seismically active faults, concentrates economic mineral deposits, and controls the distribution of life in the oceanic crust and upper mantle. <br/><br/>The Processes and Effects of Environmental Change: Ocean sediments provide a unique record of Earth's climate fluctuations and permit detection of climate signals on three time scales: tectonic (longer than 0.5 million years, and produced by changes in continent positions and continental seaways); orbital (20 thousand years to 400 thousand years, and produced by changes in the earth's orbit); and oceanic (hundreds to a few thousand years, and produced by changes in ocean circulation). Using a global array of sites, these sediment records will allow a sophisticated and detailed analysis of the causes, rates and severity of changes in the Earth's climate system and their relation to increased rates of biologic evolution. <br/><br/>Solid Earth Cycles and Geodynamics: The rates of mass and energy transfer from the mantle to the crust and back are not constant through time and the causes of these variations and their influences on the global environment are poorly understood. Drilling during the early phases of IODP will concentrate on sampling and monitoring regions of the seafloor that currently have the highest rates of energy and mass transfer, and comparing these results to older geologic settings. <br/><br/>The IODP scientific objectives require a heavy vessel for drilling deep sedimentary and crustal holes, a lighter vessel to provide widely distributed arrays of high-resolution cores to address climate, environmental, and observatory objectives, and occasional use of drilling platforms for the Arctic and nearshore projects that cannot be undertaken from the two primary IODP vessels. MEXT has secured funding of approximately $500 million for the heavy drillship to address deep drilling objectives in the new program. <br/><br/>Under contract OCE03-52500 NSF will provide the light drilling vessel, its operation, and science support services for IODP. In November 2002, the NSB approved the solicitation of proposals and the award of a 10-year contract for vessel conversion, operation and science support. Although delayed by the continuing resolution under which NSF operated until early March 2003, the RFP response has now been evaluated, and Joint Oceanographic Institutions, Inc. (JOI, partnered with the Texas A&M University Research Foundation and Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University) has been selected as the contractor to provide non-riser drilling capabilities for IODP. The Alliance of these three organizations will operate the JOIDES Resolution in FY '04 and '05 and then complete a vessel selection and conversion program to provide drilling services for the remainder of the IODP. Texas A&M University will manage drilling operations and science services, while Lamont-Doherty will be responsible for down-hole logging. JOI serves as overall integrator and prime contractor for this US contribution to IODP.