If humans are eventually going to Mars, Joseph Dituri believes there are a few kinks we need to work out first, so he’s spending 100 days underwater in an effort to prepare.
Dituri, who has a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering, is a clinical researcher at the University of South Florida, and is now also the world record holder the most time spent by a human underwater after clocking more than 74 days at the bottom of a Florida lagoon. The previous world record for living underwater was 73 days and was set by Tennessee professors Bruce Cantrell and Jessica Fain.
According to a blog post by the university, Dituri is still teaching his biomedical engineering class online throughout his experiment and he is planning to stream discussions with other scientists and researchers about his findings on his YouTube channel. So far, he has virtually interacted and taught more than 2,300 students in more than 10 countries since beginning his 100-day mission.
A 28-year-veteran of the United States Navy, Dituri is studying how the human body responds to long-term exposure to extreme pressure. During his time underwater, Dituri will also be conducting physiologic tests on himself, such as an electrocardiogram, or EKG, pulmonary function tests and blood pressure tests.
As part of the experiment, which began March 1 and is expected to end June 9, Dituri will live 30 feet below the surface in a 100-square-foot habitat located at Jules’ Undersea Lodge in Key Largo, according to USF, and a medical team will continually monitor the 55-year-old professor.
In addition to the medical tests, a psychologist and psychiatrist will also look for mental health effects as a result of being confined for so long, similar to Beatriz Flamini, who recently spent 500 days alone in a cave.
“It’s a simple analogy,” he says. “I’m basically in this tin can that is going through space and time. Every once in a while I got to get out and go clean the porthole. That’s exactly the kind of stuff you have to do [on Mars]. There’s all kinds of similarities to it.”
Dituri’s theory is that we can work out any problems on Mars before venturing elsewhere, like Mars. He’s also hoping to prove a 2020 study that hypothesized that exposure to increased pressure causes cells to double within five days. It is believed the increased pressure can help increase longevity within humans and prevent diseases associated with aging.
“We just want to know what happens to the human when you just kind of leave it alone in a tube for, you know, a long period of time,” he says.