While images of the moon landing remain burned into America’s popular culture, and many lamented the end of NASA’s shuttle program last year, there was a far less revered attempt at exploration that has been all but forgotten. In Ben Hellwarth’s new book, “SEALAB: America’s Forgotten Quest to Live and Work on the Ocean Floor,” the author revisits this once highly vaunted excursion of Earth’s aquatic frontier.
The main thrust of the Sealab missions was to establish an underwater station allowing scientists to live, work, experiment and research for long periods of time. However, there was still the tricky issue of how the human body could handle diving to such depths, and early attempts before technology had been perfected were often fatal.
Furthermore, the Sealab program was chronically underfunded in comparison to any NASA mission, which is why at this point we know more about the far reaches of the galaxy than we do about what’s happening on our own ocean floor. Hellwarth provides the history of this program, and outlines the problems it encountered.
Why didn’t Sealab survive? What makes it more appealing to explore outer space than the ocean? Are any future plans being made to revitalize the program? What potential advances could research in the ocean provide?
Ben Hellwarth, Author of "SEALAB: America’s Forgotten Quest to Live and Work on the Ocean Floor" (Simon & Schuster); former Staff Writer for the Santa Barbara News-Press
Ben Hellwarth will be reading and signing copies of Sealab at Barnes & Noble on the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, on Saturday, Feb. 11, at 2pm.