Author: Tomas Ducai
Biology (microbiology/genetics) graduate, University of Vienna - Space (medicine) enthusiast
"For most people, this is as close to being an astronaut, as you’ll ever get. It’s leaving planet Earth behind and entering an alien world.“ - Mary Frances Emmons - Editor-in-chief Scuba Diving, Sport Diver & The Undersea Journal magazines
Mary Frances Emmons puts into words the indescribable atmosphere of scuba diving in which the boundaries become blurred between Earth and the sky above, or at least, to be more precise, the depths of space. It is this mixture of feelings that I want to experience – diving into the element of water, which is essential for life and where physical disabilities may not matter. I have been active in the world of space exploration for over a year now and am truly interested in promoting inclusion in the space sciences and analog space missions. I have been lucky enough to meet a lot of respected people and professionals doing amazing work with great passion in their respective fields, and they have also been keen to help and support me to realize my dreams
A particular person who has shaped my dreams in concrete terms is Slovakia’s one and only aquanaut (underwater analog astronaut) and Chief Scientific Officer of the Hydronaut Project (unique underwater lab serving as a research facility for survival training in limited/extreme environments) - Miroslav Rozložník. Miro is an experienced scuba-dive instructor, who I met in Prague at an international analog astronaut community event. He offered to help me experience the unique underwater atmosphere through introducing me to the world of scuba-diving, a truly cherished offer that I gratefully accepted! At the same time, I knew that having a basic introduction to scuba diving may also enhance my chances of being selected as one of the three analog parastronauts for upcoming analog missions at the LunAres analog research station in Poland, especially if underwater mission experiments are being considered.
A few weeks later I met up again with Miro early one Sunday morning in front of a local Slovak swimming pool. We chatted a bit about his extraordinary scuba-diving experience and expertise, and I listened as he patiently explained about diving theory, preparing me for the first discovery dive of my life. I placed my absolute trust in Miroslav’s expertise and he turned out to be the best instructor I could ever have imagined.
After putting on the jacket, complete with a quite heavy air tank, I tried to swim with strong arm strokes to compensate for the additional weight fixed to my back – don’t forget that being paraplegic I do not have any support through my legs. Fortunately, Archimedes’ principle is valid, meaning the effort needed was not much greater in comparison to regular swimming without scuba-diving equipment.
I was really amazed by the freedom of movement and ability to breath in an unusual environment. Whilst delighted to have learned some self-rescue strategies the week after, for me, the most impressive memory I gained from my first diving participation was experiencing the silence of being underwater and the way of communication with Miro through sign language. In conclusion, I must say that I couldn’t agree more with the words of William Beebe, inventor of the Bathysphere, in his description of the fascinating world under water:
"The best thing you can do in your life is to build a device that will allow you to look into the world of silence."
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