When Dennis Chamberland was 12 years old, he dreamed of escaping his small Oklahoman town for somewhere much farther away. One day he wrote a letter to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center: “Dear Sir, Please send me all the information you have on the space program. Sincerely, Dennis Chamberland.” Mail from NASA began arriving, and it didn’t stop. Every couple of months for the next few years, space program spam fed Chamberland’s exploration fantasies. Still, he couldn’t have imagined where that early letter would take him. When Chamberland joined NASA in the early ’70s, as the manned space program was starting to thunder forward, he latched on to an idea being floated by NASA at the time: using the sea as a test bed for space exploration. As a developer of the agency’s Advanced Space Life Support Systems, which monitors the safety for all off-planet habitation pursuits, Chamberland soon became a lead proponent of research on underwater habitation and what he calls the “space-ocean analog.” While pursuing landmark research in bioengineering in his spare time, Chamberland’s work as an aquanaut and Mission Commander on seven NASA underwater missions resulted in his harvesting of the first agricultural crop in a manned habitat on the sea floor and the design and construction of the Scott Carpenter Space Analog Station, a two man undersea habitat off Key Largo that’s been visited by a range of curious futurists, including James Cameron and TV producer Rod Roddenberry. Chamberland’s next goal: colonizing the sea. His concept of creating underwater “Aquaticas,” as he calls habitable regions of the ocean, led to the creation of his own company, League of New Worlds, and the Atlantica Expeditions, which are attempting to build the first underwater settlement for permanent human colonization. Set to commence in about a year, the first expedition will be initiated by the submersion of the Leviathan, a small underwater habitat that can house up to four people. He’s not only certain that the colonization of the ocean floor is imminent; he’s making it happen.
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