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Spaceward Bound Expedition: Pavilion Lake 2008

photo of Jeff Heaton

Jeff Heaton, BSc
Operations Supervisor and Lead Submersible Pilot
Nuytco Research Limited

Heaton began his career as a commercial diver, specializing in underwater construction, ships maintenance and surveying. After nine years of being “the diver on the end of the line” he moved on to join Nuytco Research as a technician and submersible pilot.  In this role Heaton was involved in the refit and sea trials of Nuytco’s ‘Sea Otter’, ‘Sea Urchin’, ‘Aquarius’ and ‘Deep Rover’ submersibles. By 1994 Heaton was Nuytco’s head supervisor, as well as pilot and technician. In 1996 Heaton was a member of the assembly and sea trial team for the ‘Remora’ submarine rescue system, designed and built for the Royal Australian Navy.  In 1997, Nuytco Research debuted the Newtsub ‘Deep Worker’, a one-person, 2000’ rated submersible. Heaton was involved from the beginning, as a member of the design and assembly teams for all of the ‘Deep Worker’ series submersibles, #1 through #20, as well as for the two-person, ‘Dual Deep Worker’ submersibles #1, #2, and #3 which followed in 2000, 2003, and 2006 respectively.

In 1998, Nuytco Research took on a five-year contract with National Geographic Foundation in cooperation with the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to provide ‘Deep Worker 2000’ submersibles, pilot training and technical support for the “Sustainable Seas Expeditions” (SSE).  The goal was to facilitate the study of deep ocean environmental impact in the five US National Marine Sanctuaries by training scientists to pilot the ‘Deep Worker 2000’. Jeff Heaton was operations manager and operations supervisor, as well as instructor, pilot and technician for all five years of SSE. 

In 1999, US Space Alliance (a NASA postflight contractor) contracted Nuytco Research to train multiple pilots in the use of the ‘DeepWorker 2000’ submersible. Nuytco sent Jeff Heaton to be instructor, pilot and representative. Heaton performed demonstration trials for the recovery of the solid rocket boosters for the Space Shuttle transport system in a simulated environment, and then performed an actual solid rocket recovery from flight #STS 101.

Jeff Heaton has worked on many documentary films as submersible pilot and supervisor for Nuytco Research. These include the BBC production “Quest for the Giant Squid” in Kiakoura submarine Canyon, New Zealand, the Discovery Channel’s “Octopus Show” in Jervis Inlet, B.C., the BBC’s “Extreme Animals”, also in Jervis Inlet, B.C., and the BBC’s “Pacific Abyss” in Palau Micronesia.

As Nuytco’s head submersible pilot, Jeff Heaton has also worked at the US Navy Acoustic Testing Range, Back Island, Alaska; in Palau for the Coral Reef Research Foundation, collecting coral for cancer research with the ‘Deep Worker 2000’; for the US Coast Guard in San Francisco; for BC Hydro and Power Authority in British Columbia; Dept. of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Canadian Coast Guard, and for the New York Power Authority, in which he was part of the team that performed two record 12,000 ft tunnel penetrations in the ‘Deep Rover’ submersible.

Recent projects included the locating and underwater assessment of 11 pieces of heavy logging equipment sunk at a depth of 1,200 feet in the Michael Bigg Ecological Reserve at Robson Bight BC, and a record breaking 18 km pipeline survey in Namae-Ri South Korea at 3,395 feet.

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Editor: Linda Conrad
NASA Official: Liza Coe
Last Updated: April 2007
Teachers Contact: Liza Coe
  (Lizabeth.K.Coe@nasa.gov)