The latest deployment of NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) has begun with the international crew of aquanauts entering the habitat, Aquarius, yesterday for a twelve day mission. Aquarius, the world’s only undersea laboratory, is located in about 63 feet (20 metres) of water, three and a half miles off Key Largo, Florida.
This 16th mission is to evaluate NASA’s approach to future human space flight; “We’re trying to look out into the future and understand how we’d operate on an asteroid,” said Mike Gernhardt, NASA astronaut and NEEMO principal investigator. “You don’t want to make a bunch of guesses about what you’ll need and then get to the asteroid to find out it won’t work the way you thought it would. NEEMO helps give us the information we need to make informed decisions now.”
The mission will involve scientists and astronauts flying DeepWorker submersibles, interacting with divers living and operating from the undersea habitat. The physical, mental and operational rigors associated with the diving and submersible operations at NEEMO are directly relatable to astronaut extravehicular activities using spacesuits and pressurized rovers. Underwater, as in space, the crew must contend with limited connection to colleagues, protection and isolation from the environment and life support systems, all while exploring and conducting science in variable and unfamiliar terrains.
This NEEMO expedition will focus on three areas: communication delays, restraint and translation techniques, and optimum crew size.
You can keep a watchful eye over the expedition via a live video stream, here.
Stay tuned for more on NEEMO in a future issue of DIVER Magazine.
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