On the 50th anniversary of ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau’s 30-day undersea stint in a lab below the Red Sea, his grandson, aquanaut Fabien Cousteau, decided to honor his journey. Cousteau the younger recently spent 31 days inside the Aquarius Reef Base, currently the only underwater marine habitat and lab on the planet.
While living at the underwater base at the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, Cousteau conducted a number of scientific studies with a rotating team of aquanauts. The group looked at ocean acidification, pollution, fish behavior, and even the impact of sleep on humans living underwater.
“Basically, what we were able to achieve in 31 days is collecting over three years worth of data because we were living and working at the bottom of the sea. That gave us the luxury of time to collect that data,” he says. “Scientists were overwhelmed and elated by the amount of data and DNA samples we were able to collect.” Northeastern University and Florida International University–which both dispatched researchers to join Cousteau in the schoolbus-sized undersea lab–expect to generate at least 10 scientific papers from the journey.
In addition to researchers, an array of other guests visited the Mission 31 crew. NASA astronaut Clayton Anderson was one of them. This wasn’t Anderson’s first time to Aquarius; he visited over a decade ago training for a space mission. NASA sends astronauts to the base because the deep sea mimics the effects of weightlessness and isolation that astronauts experience–and Aquarius has tight living quarters, just like what astronauts deal with on missions into space.