It has now been one month since Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, and the 239 people on board, went missing on a routine flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
Time is running out to locate the plane's black box. Its beacons, which give off "pings" once they make contact with water, only have a battery life of 30 days. This weekend the Australian ship Ocean Shield heard two distinct "pings." The ship is towing a U.S. Navy black box detector, which picked up the two signals, one lasted for two hours and 20 minutes and the other for 13 minutes. Chinese ship Haixun 01 also detected a "ping," but investigators are skeptical that the roughly one-minute-long transmission was from the black box.
Unfortunately, the ship has not been able to relocate these signals, prompting the fear that the batteries may have died. "There have been no further contacts with any transmission and we need to continue [searching] for several days right up to the point at which there's absolutely no doubt that the batteries will have expired," said Retired Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, who is heading up the joint search.
According to CBC News, if the black box is not located, the next step will be to deploy the U.S. Navy autonomous submarine, Bluefin-21. The sub will use sonar to search for and chart any debris. If the wreckage is located a camera will be swapped in for the sonar and the drone-sub will take photographs. Due to large surface area, and scant data, this underwater search process could take "many, many days," Houston said.
The plane disappeared on March 8, and investigators have determined that after it veered off course it flew for hours and ended in the Indian Ocean. The search area is around 1,100 miles northwest of Perth, Australia. According to the Joint Agency Coordination Center, the team is still searching for floating debris as well. Fourteen planes -- both military and civilian -- and 14 ships participated in the search. No physical evidence of the plane has been found yet.