August 29, 2011 - A VERY Long-Distance Phone Call!

 – 1965

Space calling Ocean?

On this day in 1965, astronaut Gordon Cooper talked from Earth orbit with former-astronaut-turned-aquanaut Scott Carpenter, who was 205 feet below the surface of the Pacific Ocean at the time!

Is this the longest-distance phone call EVER? Apparently it is the only space-ship-to-underwater-ship conversation so far in history.

Cooper was aboard Gemini 5, and Carpenter was setting a world record in underwater work, living for 30 consecutive days on Sealab II. The two had known each other for years, having been among the original seven astronauts in Project Mercury, the first U.S. manned space effort.

The movie “The Right Stuff” is partly about the Mercury 7 and is very interesting!.

Did you know...?

  • Sealab II was knicknamed the “Tiltin' Hilton” because the landing site, in the La Jolla Canyon off the coast of California, was sloped.

  • The divers tested human ability to withstand the partial-pressure and cramped spaces of the vessel, but also tested new tools and an electrically heated drysuit.

  • A bottlenosed dolphin named Tuffy helped carry supplies from the surface to Sealab.

  • Another famous phone call from aquanaut Scott Carpenter was made to President Lyndon Baines Johnson. This call was pretty weird because Carpenter was in a decompression chamber filled with helium and oxygen, and his voice was really high, what is known as “helium speak.” The White House phone operator didn't want to connect the call, even though it had been pre-arranged, because she thought Carpenter's voice was “garbled.” It's pretty entertaining to listen to that phone call—but the only copy I could find was about twenty minutes into an NPR tape here. (The first twenty minutes are really good, “voices from space”—President Kennedy calling on Americans to send a man to the moon, and astronaut voices from Gemini and Apollo space missions. I could have done without all the weird space-y music and especially the even-weirder “Third Planet” interlude, but the most of it is really interesting!)

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