Diving Equipment Helps Expedition Team Uncover Microbial Adaptation to Harsh Environments
- Thursday, 28 June 2007
CODE Rebreathers and SSV Lifejackets
The High Lakes Project (HLP) is funded by a grant from the NASA Astrobiology Institute to the SETI/NAI team. The HLP is an endeavor involving a team of expert scientists, mountainclimbers, and divers that will explore the ecosystems of three high-altitude-summit lakes in Bolivia and Chile. The physical and environmental conditions around and in these lakes — characterized by a thin atmosphere, temperature swings, and intense ultraviolet radiation — are uniquely analogous to ancient Martian lakes about 2.7 billion years ago. Learning about how microbial organisms adapt to such harsh environments is a critical step in preparing for life on Mars. The HLP also aims to understand how rapid climate change affects life and habitats, which is relevant to Martian exploration and to Earth’s current evolution.
The current expedition requires the team to dive to the bottom of these high-altitude lakes using compact oxygen diving equipment, called rebreathers. The apparatus captures carbon dioxide and allows the divers to breathe pure oxygen, thereby preventing expelled carbon dioxide from contaminating the lakes. The rebreathers provide divers with enough time to explore the ecosystem at the bottom of the lakes. Aqua Lung will loan the HLP diving team three CODE rebreathers and three SSV lifejackets for use in the high-altitude lakes. In return, NASA will provide Aqua Lung with a full evaluation of the diving equipment in high-altitude lakes and photographs of the diving operations.
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