Press Release

Space Adventures Sends Explorers to Innerspace

By SpaceRef Editor
July 17, 2002
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Former Astronaut Among Divers Encountering Life Forms At Thermal Vents

Orbiting Jupiter, the largest planet in our
solar system, is Europa, a moon just slightly smaller than our own. Unlike
other natural satellites however, Europa’s cratered surface is mostly water
ice, and the possibility of liquid water just below the surface has led
scientists to question whether life could have evolved there.

The answer to that question may lie with the geological and biological
processes discovered in the Atlantic Ocean. Near the Azores, 7,875 feet
(2,400m) below the ocean1s surface, are the “Rainbow Vents,” a field of tall
sediment chimneys in constant eruption. These hydrothermal vents — which
are essentially geysers on the sea floor — support chemical-based
ecosystems and house some of the oldest life forms on Earth. Life — as we
didn1t know it — flourishes there without ever seeing the light of day, in
extreme temperatures, and under tremendous pressure.

Today, Space Adventures, Ltd. in partnership with the P.P. Shirshov
Institute of Oceanology in Moscow and Deep Ocean Expeditions, began a series
of dives to the underwater world of the Rainbow Vents in the depths of the
mid-Atlantic. Eleven private explorers — including former U.S. astronaut
Owen Garriott — and four research scientists will witness alien marine life
surrounding waterjets with coal-black plumes, multicolored mineral deposits
spewed onto the seafloor, and ‘pillow lava’ formations.

“Just as space tourists help fund continued missions to the space station,
each dive supports the scientific efforts being done here,” said Mike
McDowell, Space Adventures Chairman and expedition leader.

The dives, which began today and continue through July 22, are made using
the MIR I and MIR II submersibles, Russian vessels capable of diving to
20,000 feet (6,090m) below the ocean. Housed aboard the RV Akademik Keldysh,
the MIRs are two of only five manned submersibles in the world that can
reach these depths, and have been used for a number of photography and film
projects including James Cameron1s epic motion picture Titanic.

Limited interview opportunities with Azores expedition members are available
upon request.

Space Adventures, Ltd., the world’s leading space tourism company, offers a
wide range of space experiences, from zero-gravity and high-altitude
supersonic flights, cosmonaut training and space flight qualification
programs on Earth, to actual flights into space. Future expeditions include
astronomy-related tours of both Hawaii and Australia. For more information,
see http://www.spaceadventures.com/

SpaceRef staff editor.