Training like a parastronaut – a look into a unique first diving experience!

By: Tomas Ducai – member of DIVINAS (DIVersity IN Astronaut Selection)

Note: This article has also been published earlier in the InnovaSpace blog. InnovaSpace is an international inclusive community of diverse scientists, engineers and explorers. The author of the article, Tomas Ducai, is leading one of their working groups for international space outreach.

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

Mary Frances Emmons is pouring into words the indescribable atmosphere of scuba diving where boundaries between earth and sky meet. It is this mixture of feelings I wanted to experience – diving into the element of water, which is essential to life and where physical disabilities do not matter. Being very  active in the world of space exploration, and truly interested in inclusion in space sciences and analog space missions, I’m glad to have met a lot of valuable people and professionals doing amazing work with great passion in both of these fields. And what is more, many of them have extended a hand to support  me and help me realize my dreams. In particular, meeting the  long-standing scuba diving instructor Miroslav Rozložník at an international analog astronaut event in Prague, has shaped my dreams in concrete terms. Miroslav is Slovakia’s one and only aquanaut (underwater analog astronaut) and chief scientific officer for the Hydronaut Project (a unique underwater lab that serves as a research facility for training of survival in limited and extreme environments). He  offered me to experience the unique atmosphere underwater and to introduce me to the world of scuba diving. This could also enhance my chances of getting selected for the next analog mission in the analog space habitat LunAres, as one of three upcoming analog parastronauts! Indeed, having had at least a basic training in case of potential underwater experiments during that mission, could help with my chances of being selected. A truly cherished offer, that I gratefully accepted.

Photo credits: Tomas Ducai & Miroslav Rozložník

Meeting  Miro on an early Sunday morning a few weeks after the international event where we first met, and then later in front of a local Slovak swimming pool where we had a quick chat about his extraordinary scuba diving technical expertise; listening also to his patient theoretical explanations, getting ready for the first discovery dive of my life; I gained absolute trust in Miroslav’s expertise – he was the best instructor I could imagine. Time for the dive: putting my jacket on with a quite heavy scuba tank on my back, I first tried to make strong strokes with my arms, to compensate for the additional weight on my back – not to forget, not having any support through my legs as being paraplegic. Fortunately, Archimedes’ principle is valid, therefore the effort wasn’t much harder compared to normal swimming without scuba diving equipment. I was really amazed by the freedom of movement and the ability to breathe in an unusual environment. Delighted to have learned some self-rescue strategies the week after, the most impressive memory from my first diving experience was the silence and the way of communication with Miro through sign language

To conclude, I can’t agree more with William Beebe, the inventor of the Bathysphere, as he describes 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.” – William Beebe

About the author

Tomas Ducai from Slovakia recently joined our DIVINAS (DIVersity IN Astronaut Selection) long-term project at the Diversity and Gender Equality Project Group. He is a biology (focusing on microbiology and genetics) graduate of the University of Vienna. Tomas is a wheel-chair user since birth, he is very interested in biomedical topics and human factors but also astronomy.

Do you have any questions on our activities at DIVINAS? Reach out to us: [email protected].