In less than a month, NASA will be sending an international team of astronauts and scientists to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. The project is a 14-day mission to prepare for future deep space missions.
The mission is the 20th so far in the NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) expedition. From NEEMO’s mission statement:
NEEMO is a NASA mission that sends groups of astronauts, engineers and scientists to live in Aquarius, the world’s only undersea research station, for up to three weeks at a time. The Aquarius habitat and its surroundings provide a convincing analog for space exploration.
The focus of NEEMO 20 will be on evaluating tools and techniques that will be tested for future spacewalks with a variety of surfaces and gravity levels. Surfaces simulated will range from asteroids, the moons of Mars, and the Martian surface.
In discussing the mission objectives, NASA states on the NEEMO website:
The mission will test time delays in communications due to the distance of potential mission destinations. The crew also will assess hardware sponsored by the European Space Agency (ESA) that allows crew members to read the next step in a procedure without taking their hands or eyes away from the task using a tablet, a smartphone and a head-mounted interface.
Luca Parmitano is an astronaut with the European Sace Agency and will command the NEEMO 20 mission aboard the Aquarius laboratory. Parmitano flew in space during Expeditions 36 and 37 aboard the International Space Station in 2013. He spent 166 days living and working in the extreme environment of microgravity. He conducted two spacewalks on his first spaceflight.
The NEEMO crew and two professional habitat technicians will live 62 feet (19 meters) below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean in Florida International University’s Aquarius Reef Base undersea research habitat 6.2 miles (5.4 nautical miles) off the coast of Key Largo, Florida. In a striking coincidence, I will actually be in Key Largo when they come up from the expedition.
Interested in the NEEMO project? Check out their website at the link below. Would you be up for living underwater for 14 days? Let us know in the comments!