This is a great video from Mission 31 about the midway aquanaut switch, when Liz and I descended to Aquarius. Aquanauts Adam, Andy and Kip first decompressed in Aquarius and then re-surfaced with outstretched arms to the sun. Liz, Matt and I said goodbye to the surface and dove to the bottom of the sea. Liz and I "high-fived" in the water on the dive down together to Aquarius.
What is historic Mission 31 (and why is it so special?) This great video from Fusion explains the story very well: "Living underwater gives ocean explorers an incredible advantage. Unlike normal surface diving, where a person can only stay underwater a few hours a day, Mission 31 aquanauts can be under the surface for 12 hours or more. This is because their bodies are saturated with nitrogen, allowing them to live at the same pressure as the water that surrounds them."
"To put it in perspective, it would take a normal diver six months to collect the amount of data that the aquanauts can obtain in 31 days."
"To say the least, Mission 31 is ... cool."
The cast of characters includes ... yours truly, Grace under no pressure :)
"This is a story about saving our waters, our oceans, our seas."
We Visited Jacques Cousteau's Grandson at the Bottom of the Ocean, article and video from This is Fusion.
Another great Mission 31 video is Splashdown: Aquanauts Switch Mid-Mission when when Liz, Matt and I splashed down to Aquarius.
I woke up to a dozen text messages asking for spur-of-the-moment interviews with various news media, which I didn't expect. What a way to wake up! Although I couldn't get to reef base in time for big pre-splashdown buzz, I was in time to catch the aquanauts entering Aquarius live. Reef base ("mission control") was chaotic. Various news media, including The Weather Channel, CNN, and NBC were there to cover the splashdown, while Aquarius' operations managers focused on making sure the aquanauts safely entered the habitat and everything went as planned. A couple of news articles from today are here: The Weather Channel and NBC.
At mission control, there were a large group of people, including media, huddled around a computer monitor waiting for Fabien, Andy, and Adam to enter the habitat. Fabien had a huge smile as he entered Aquarius, his home for the next 31 days. I'm looking forward to joining with Liz on the 17th! Meanwhile, I'll be preparing scientific research, supporting with surface dives, and helping with ocean outreach. We all passed training and the mission has officially begun!
Here's the splashdown video!
After things settled down, I joined our publicist Amy, plus Jen Carfagno and Donna from The Weather Channel for a lunch at the fabulous Cheeca Resort. It was a beautiful get-away. After lunch, I moved my things to the mission headquarters house so full-time Aquarius operations staff could take my room near reef base.
Get to know the aquanauts!
I hope to complete podcasts highlighting each of the aquanauts, including the great topside science researchers. In the meantime, CNET released short interviews with each of the Mission 31 aquanauts in the article: Deep thoughts from aquanauts: Meet the Mission 31 undersea team. Here's mine below:
Meanwhile we aquanauts parted ways temporarily. Liz flew back to Boston today so she can train the Northeastern research divers before returning to the Keys when she and I saturate. Andy, Adam, and I had an amazing breakfast at Harriette's Restaurant in Key Largo with some of Andy's research mates, before heading to their research base. We also stopped by the hardware store for some last-minute research prep, and dropped off final supplies at the reef base for transportation to Aquarius tomorrow. At the base, we showed a Weather Channel representative around so she could prepare media coverage for tomorrow.
Back at mission headquarters, it's a little chaotic. Fabien managed to complete a whirlwind of back-to-back interviews for various news sources, including the Weather Channel, Sky News, NBC and others (all listed on the M31 Facebook page). I hope he gets time to relax before splashdown at 10 am tomorrow! Meanwhile the boys and I are planning to spend the evening with popcorn and a movie as they savor their last moments on land (for the next two weeks). We already miss Liz! Can't wait till she returns on the 15th.
It's hard to comprehend all that's happened in the last two weeks. It's been a whirlwind of adventure, meeting new people, learning, and jumping (literally) out of my comfort zone. I can't believe how time has flown by; already, we're done with training!
Today we dove for a little over an hour, getting in final practice with the full face masks and the double tanks. We also did an underwater photo shoot with the ultra-high definition RED camera, for Fabien's documentary film. The RED camera has revolutionized photography with a sensor that has more than 5 times the number of pixels of the very best HD camera. RED: The Camera that Changed Hollywood.
Our final debriefing was sentimental. Roger, chief of Aquarius operations, told us more people have gone into space than have lived underwater, so what we're doing is very special. We have now a unique opportunity to bring ocean science and public awareness to a new level. It's tremendously exciting! Fabien said it only hit him yesterday that this was finally real, really happening. At last, there's no turning back!
In the afternoon, a research team from the Florida Institute of Technology (FIU) showed us how to use their sonar imaging system. This system will help record and monitor fish, and our FIU researchers will use the system to record fish behavior in response to predators.
Splashdown is in 48 hours! Tonight we'll celebrate, somehow.
Grace is an MIT ocean engineer, aquanaut, and scientist with Cousteau's Mission 31. She's currently a PhD student at University of Oxford and scientist for the Pisces VI deep sea submarine.