Recently, I took the Scuba Experience – Underwater Astronaut Training at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. It was an easy way to get a little scuba experience and a weightless simulation in a friendly environment.
Before you get into the water you have to fill out your standard health waivers ensuring they can help you in case something were to go wrong. The instructors then go over the basic hand signals you would use under the water. Most of the signals are fairly common sense, but they will require you to be attentive. Once you are done with the basic hand signals you will be asked to swim from one end of the tank to the other, where you will receive your gear and gear training.
The training is brief but informative. You are taught everything you need to know and at no point will you ever feel like you weren’t given the information to answer any problem that arises. You start with putting on a harness that holds your forty pound air tank in place. Attached to the tank is your respirator which is commonly referred to as “The Breathey Thingy.” You will also be given a mask to keep the water out of your eyes. You are taught how to clear the respirator of water, how to retrieve your respirator if you were to drop it under the water, how to clear your mask of water, and how to equalize the pressure in your ears.
Once you are done with the training, you begin your descent. The descent is done slowly down a ladder. Every two steps of the ladder, you must equalize your ear pressure. It’s a slow process but allows you to adjust your body to the feeling of the water. I was surprised by how my body quickly adjusted to the pressure of the water. If you’ve ever swum to the bottom of a pool and felt the pressure against your skull, you will be astonished by how normal you feel at twice the depth.
In the environment are many things you can enjoy, while you breathe away your, now seemingly nonexistent, air tank. There’s a basketball goal using bowling balls, which you can shoot and dunk to your heart’s content. A hundred pound ball is placed at the bottom which you can twirl on your finger with ease.
There is even a builder’s challenge where you must erect a pyramid using tubes without the ability to speak to those with you under the surface, or one could launch a series of rockets from their underwater launching station. My favorite activity was swimming to the portholes at the edges of the tank and looking out to the visitors of the museum.
You spend approximately half an hour under the water, depending on how much air you use. The instructors monitor your air for you throughout, as you forget you even need to worry about breathing underwater. You can swim and explore for as long as you have a certain amount of air, or you can simply alert the instructor that you would like to go back to the top. No pressure is put on you when you’re under the water. Eventually, however, the instructor gives you the signal to go up. You slowly climb the ladder back to the surface.
Once you’ve reached the surface, you are helped with the removal of your gear. You are then given more information on scuba diving and getting your scuba certification. When that is done, you exit the tank and can change clothes in the bathroom provided.
The Scuba Experience offered by the U.S. Space and Rocket Center is massive amounts of fun. You receive great training in a short time. You are given the ability to explore a beautiful underwater facility. It’s truly a wonderful experience and great way to spend an afternoon.
Submitted By Nathan W.
Scuba Experience – Underwater Astronaut Training
Location: U.S. Space & Rocket Center
Cost: $50/person | Ages 14-18 and under must be accompanied by a guardian