PLYMOUTH, England (CBS/AP) — With a splash of Plymouth gin, the U.S. ambassador to Britain officially launched a ship called Mayflower Wednesday, 400 years to the day after a wooden vessel with the same name sailed from an English port to Plymouth, Massachusetts and changed the history of two continents.
The 1620 journey launched a new chapter of expansion for Europe and brought disaster for the Native peoples of the Americas.
Unlike the merchant ship that carried a group of European Puritan settlers to a new life across the Atlantic Ocean, the Mayflower christened on Wednesday has no crew or passengers.
The Mayflower Autonomous ship is designed and built to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the original sailing, from Plymouth, England to Plymouth, Mass.
It will spend six months in sea trials before it will attempt to cross the Atlantic Ocean next Spring, powered by sun and wind, and steered by artificial intelligence.
“Because there is no one there we can take this risk and it is perfectly safe and if it doesn’t make it, no one was hurt but we will learn a tremendous amount. Not just about the ocean or the climate, which is what this boat will do, is gather data, but how reliable systems like this are that don’t depend on personnel on board,” said Brett Phaneuf, the co-director of the project.
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)