DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Four civilians will be jetting off into space Wednesday evening, but before they take flight, they had to get special training in Duke's hyperbaric chamber.
For the first time in space expedition history, no trained astronauts will be heading into space--this time just four tourists.
Ahead of the historic occassion, they needed special training in a low oxygen environment. They collaborated with Dr. Richard Moon, the medical director for the Center for Hyperbaric Medicine, environmental ecology, as well as a professor of anesthesiology and medicine, for their training.
"SpaceX contacted us several weeks ago, because part of their training involves exposing them to low oxygen, and high carbon dioxide levels," said Moon.
"We gave them a tour of the facility. We gave them a couple of lectures. We then did the carbon dioxide exposure and then later, we did the low oxygen exposure, we put them in a hyperbaric chamber and simulated altitude, we took them to 25,000 feet. And each person in turn, took their oxygen mask off and then did various things," he said.
The training here in the hyperbaric chamber could help them in emergency situations.
"If, for example, the spacecraft developed a leak, air was being leaked out into space, the pressure inside the spacecraft would be reduced," said Moon.
"So the idea here for them was to expose them to low oxygen so they could see what it felt like and if hopefully, it won't occur up in space. But if it were to occur, they would then know that something was going on, and what to do about it," he explained.
Dr. Moon said everyone performed wonderfully.
"They're all for SpaceX astronauts are, are very accomplished individuals in their own fields. They were all fabulous people to work with. They were very interested, very skilled. And we were delighted to interact with them," he said.
He hopes this is just the beginning of more projects of this magnitude.
"Working in an environment where we can simulate various environments, lighting and altitude. Very exciting to me and my colleagues. We're very lucky to have this facility in Durham at Duke, where we can push the envelope, learn things about human physiology, and help people as well," he said.
Dr. Moon says his eyes will be glued to the TV this evening when the Space X team blasts off.