Today we spent a full day in the classroom. Aquarius' dive safety officer Roger Garcia taught us all about the dive helmets we'll be using on the mission. The helmet completely cover your head, surrounding it with air. It weighs about 30lbs, so it feels like a huge weight on your shoulders on land, but in the water you won't feel the weight. The helmet, also called a Kirby Morgan after the manufacturer, brings air to the diver through an umbilical cord, which can be up to 600ft long. Some of the aquanauts (Matt, Andy, Fabien) have used dive helmets before, but for the rest of us, it is a new and exciting experience.
By the end of this week, we should all be able to use the dive helmets in our sleep. We'll also be prepared for every conceivable emergency situation, no matter how unlikely. One of the most important things to remember is to stay calm if something goes unexpectedly wrong. Freaking out is one of the worst things you can do underwater because you'll overuse your air supply and make less than best decisions. If you stay calm, however, it's all about remembering the training and/or following muscle memory. Team members at the control center are always monitoring us and in communication with us via the helmets, so we'll also be talking with them constantly about what things are going well, what aren't, or even what the weather's like on land.
Tomorrow we'll dive with the helmets and practice the drills we discussed today. That way everything will become muscle memory. One drill we'll do is to completely flood the mask with water (on purpose!) and then clear it with a purge valve.