'Aquanauts' to Begin Month-Long Underwater Mission
Kip Evans, Mission Blue
Aquarius Reef Base is a seafloor habitat located roughly 63 feet (19 meters) underwater in the Florida Keys.
On Thursday (Oct. 10, 2013), Scott Carpenter, NASA astronaut and U.S. Navy aquanaut, died after suffering a stroke. He was 88. Carpenter, who was the second U.S. astronaut to orbit the Earth and only the fourth U.S. astronaut to go into space following in the footsteps of following Alan Shepard, Gus Grissom and John Glenn. Carpenter is seen here in an orbital flight simulation in procedures trainer before his historic 1962 spaceflight.
Carpenter dons the Project Mercury suit he will wear on his MA-7 orbital flight.
Mercury astronaut Scott Carpenter rides in a flight simulator at the astronaut training center at Langley Field, Virginia.
Lt. Col. John H. Glenn, Jr. (center), gets a multiple handshake from his fellow astronauts after he arrived at the Grand Turk Island Medical Center in the Bahamas. Glenn had just made his history-making flight into space. Left to right: M. Scott Carpenter; Don Slayton; Glenn; Virgil Grissom; Alan Shepard; and Walter M. Schirra, Jr. Missing from the group is astronaut Leroy G. Cooper.
May 14, 1962 -- Spacecraft No. 18, named Aurora 7 by its pilot astronaut Scott Carpenter, is lowered into position for mating to its Atlas booster.
May 24, 1962 -- Carpenter wears a somewhat tense smile as a suit technician makes a final check of the neck coupling for his space helmet. Carpenter climbed into his Aurora Seven space capsule a few hours after this picture was made.
May 24, 1962 -- Astronaut Scott Carpenter talks with technicians just before entering his Aurora 7 Mercury spacecraft for his successful 3-orbit flight.
May 24, 1962 -- View of the launching of Mercury Atlas with Scott Carpenter aboard the Aurora 7 Mercury capsule at beginning of his historic orbital flight.
In the Atlantic: Astronaut Scott Carpenter talks via ship-to-shore telephone with President Kennedy just after he was brought aboard the aircraft carrier Intrepid following his rescue from the Ocean. He splashed down 250 miles off target.
After his single, historic spaceflight, Carpenter joined the U.S. Navy's SEALAB project. Here, he stands atop Sealab II and gives the signal for it to be lowered to the bottom of the ocean off the California coast where he resided for 28 days.
The original seven Project Mercury astronauts: front row, from left, are Walter M. Schirra, Jr., Donald "Deke" K. Slayton, John Glenn Jr., and M. Scott Carpenter. Back row, from left, are Alan Shepard Jr., Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom, and Gordon Cooper. After the death of Carpenter, John Glenn is now the only surviving member of the original Project Mercury astronauts.
A month-long research mission on the ocean floor, led by Fabien Cousteau, the grandson of famed oceanographer Jacques Cousteau, is slated to begin this weekend. Fabien Cousteau and a team of "aquanauts" will spend a record 31 days living and working underwater as part of the expedition, dubbed Mission 31.
Cousteau and his team are expected to splash down on Sunday (June 1), at around 11 a.m. EDT (1500 GMT). The researchers will live aboard Aquarius Reef Base, a seafloor habitat located roughly 63 feet (19 meters) underwater in the Florida Keys.
Throughout Mission 31, the aquanauts will test new technologies and examine the effects of climate change on corals, sponges and other sea life. The expedition is also designed to spark interest in ocean exploration, providing a window into "the adventure, risk and mystique of what lies beneath," Mission 31 planners have said. [9 Craziest Ocean Voyages]
"The overarching theme for Mission 31 is the human-ocean connection within the lens of exploration and discovery," Cousteau said in a statement.
The aquanauts will spend roughly six to nine hours each day diving and performing experiments outside the Aquarius habitat. The entire underwater expedition will be webcast live for the public, and film crews will also compile footage throughout the month-long excursion for a future Mission 31 documentary, Cousteau has said.
Additionally, during their time underwater, the aquanauts will investigate the physiological and psychological impacts of long-term saturation diving, and the effects of living in prolonged confinement.
Mission 31 will pay tribute to the 50th anniversary of Jacques Cousteau's famous Continental Ice Shelf Station Two (Conshelf Two) expedition in 1963. During that mission, the trailblazing oceanographer lived in an underwater habitat located 30 feet (9 m) beneath the Red Sea for 30 days.
Fabien Cousteau and his team are expected to surpass the milestone set by the Conshelf Two mission by one full day. If successful, Mission 31 will be the longest that researchers have lived aboard the Aquarius habitat, the expedition's planners have said.
Aquarius Reef Base is the only underwater habitat in the world. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration owns the facility, and Florida International University manages it.
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