Jaques Cousteu began building a series of habitats in the 1960s and set a record in 1965 with six men at 328 feet for 21 days. Through four decades of experiments in underwater living, there have been 3 fatalities, none caused by habitat. Aquarius is nearing the record for being the longest-running and most successful of these experiments in inner space. It is the only continuously operating undersea laboratory today.
Deep-sea life forms
New research on deep-sea life forms is so important that the National Science Foundation recently began an initiative to promote exploration in the deep and other extreme environments. It's thought that deep-sea microbes may prove to be an important analog for extraterrestrial research on other planets. NASA is planning to send probes for life under the frozen seas of Jupiters moon Europa.
Who goes there?
Not only does a variety of life thrive in the ocean's deep waters, but countless volcanic hydrothermal vents spew hot sulphuric gases and other energy-rich chemicals. Along the tectonic fault lines that crisscross the ocean floor are where all kinds of unknowns are waiting for scientific discovery.
Sometimes simple works
When scientists need the correct tool for the job, they sometimes they have to think outside the box. On the Aquarius mission, the experts used women's pantyhose and simple tubes with holes to catch larvae needed for study.
Need to vent?
Vents called "cold seeps" have been found all over the world's waters. From them a natural gas (methane) is seeping out that becomes trapped in water ice crystals to create hydrates. Like hot vents, these cold hydrates are also sustaining deep-sea life via chemosythesis.
more interesting tidbits next week......