In order to prepare astronauts for the challenge of facing extreme environments in space, NASA sends them to similarly remote and physically demanding environments here on earth. At this time, four “aquanauts” are living in Aquarius, the world’s only underwater laboratory, off the coast of Key Largo, Florida. This testing mission, adorably titled NEEMO (NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations) is a 13-day mission that is exploring spacewalks, jetpacks, boom operations, behaviour health, and all sorts of other X-Factors in the briny deep. You can read all about their ongoing adventures on the NEEMO mission page.
So how could you simulate an Extreme Environment for yourself without joining an actual mission? Well, if you are lucky enough to live in Canada, you can wait until winter (any minute now) and simply head out your front door. Extreme enough for you? But if you have a taste for the blue, and a desire to wear a bubble-helmet, there is a fantastic way to go diving and exploring, without even getting your hair wet. Sub Diving.
If you happen to find yourself in the bahamas, head over to Stuart Cove’s Dive Bahamas in Nassau, and book yourself a half-day Sub Dive Adventure. You’ll find yourself whisked out to surrounding coral reefs for a quick snorkel with brilliant fish, followed up by a 10-15 foot plunge into the ocean on a self-contained underwater motorcycle. If you can’t swim, not to worry! You can skip the snorkeling, and because the SUB unit has such a huge dome helmet, with air bubbled continuously into it, you don’t have to worry about using a mouth piece or tubes to breath. The unit has a simple on/off and steering feature, which allows you to glide slowly underwater in your own domed world, just as if you were gliding through space.
After taking this trip to another world in a bubble (one of the most amazing experiences I’ve had!), you might just find you’d like a little bit more freedom to explore. So do it! Find some scuba diving lessons near you, and get that PADI certificate. By next summer, you could be scooting along the ocean floor, pretending to make your way across the surface of a Near Earth Asteroid. Blub, blub, blub.