Tektite I

Text Box: SEAFLOOR PROGRAM
The seafloor program was divided into three general categories: marine science, psychological and medical (Miller and Lambertsen, 1970).  
Marine Science Program
In the marine science program, more research was planned then could be accomplished during the mission, allowing the aquanauts to select those problems best suited to the situation.  A summary of the seafloor program is link to webpage.  The aquanauts in the habitat were assisted in their marine scientific research by the three alternate aquanauts.
Psychological Program 
The psychological program was designed to obtain data useful for future manned missions in space, as well as undersea research.  Areas emphasized were crew size and selection criteria, habitability of the undersea station and use of time during the mission.  To make the data more meaningful for space applications, every effort was made to avoid any contact between the four aquanauts and people on the surface.  This isolation, when combined with a meaningful marine science mission, contributed to the significance of the study.  Psychological data were collected using 24-hour visual and auditory monitoring of the crew, which resulted in over 400,000 individual observations. 
Biomedical
The biomedical part of the program had two purposes: the aquanauts’ medical safety and evaluation of possible psychological effects of long-term saturation exposure using a nitrogen-oxygen breathing mixture.  Particular attention was given to the functioning of the pulmonary, circulatory and nervous systems (Pauli and Cole, 1970).  The aquanauts underwent a week of extensive medical examinations at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital Research Center prior to the mission.  Many of these studies were continued during the 60-day saturation and for one week following the mission (Miller and Lambertsen, 1971).  Additional laboratory studies were conducted to determine the surface interval prior to the onset of bends in the event an aquanaut surfaced accidentally after becoming saturated at a depth of 50 feet (15.2 m).  Experiments by Edel (1970) showed that the aquanaut probably would not be in danger if the surface interval was less than 15 minutes (Beckman and Smith, 1972). (link to summary report)
SEAFLOOR EXCURSIONS
On excursions, the aquanauts used either 200-foot (61 m) air (hookah) hoses or scuba.  Because of the local topography, vertical excursions were limited to an upward depth of 22 feet (6.7m) and a downward depth of 85 feet (25.9 m).  Lateral excursions extended to distances of 1800 feet (549 m) from the habitat.  Water temperature near the bottom was about 70○ to 75○ F (21○ to 24○ C).  
BIOMEDICAL PROBLEMS
The only biomedical problems of significance were ear infections, which caused the loss of many days in the water by each aquanaut.
EQUIPMENT PROBLEMS
As was the case in previous seafloor programs, the major problems centered around equipment failures.  Tektite I encountered continual difficulties with the CO2 removal system, the TV cameras, the surface resupply system, gas monitoring equipment and myriad of other problems.  Consequently aquanauts spent significant amounts of their time repairing equipment, activities that interfered with in-water marine science programs.
SEAFLOOR MISSION CONCLUSION
On April 15, 1969, the four aquanauts left the habitat and swam the 400 feet (122 m) to the pressurized PTC located directly beneath the crane barge.  The capsule was lifted to the deck and mated to the decompression chamber, where the aquanauts underwent a decompression of 19 hours and 22 minutes.  Stage decompression was used with depth changes of one foot per minute.  The aquanauts left the chamber at 8:08 p.m. on April 15, 1969, having encountered no difficulties in decompression. 
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Tektite Underwater Habitat Museum

 

Web page text edited and revised with permission from James W. Miller and Ian G. Koblick’s book: Living and Working in the Sea, 1995.