Undersea Missions Help NASA Develop Future Space Exploration

NASA will be using the challenging and low gravity environment of working in the ocean as a way to rehearse, learn and ultimately plan for future missions in space exploration and operations on the International Space Station.

To this end, the agency has two missions coming up this summer for their program known as the NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations or NEEMO.

Undersea Missions Help NASA Develop Future Space Exploration

Aquanauts test and develop surface operations. Image Credit: NASA

According to the agency, there is a direct correlation between what they learn working on the ocean floor and working, living and perform critical tasks in the environment of space and the ISS.

“It is both challenging and exciting for our astronaut crews to participate in these undersea missions in preparation for spaceflight,” says Bill Todd, NEEMO project manager at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. “It is critical that we perform science applicable to NASA’s exploration goals in a high-fidelity space operational context. The extreme environment of life undersea is as close to being in space as possible.”

The first mission, NEEMO 18, is a nine-day mission beginning July 21 which will focus on studies in behavioral health and performance, human health issues, and habitability.

This will be followed by a 7 day NEEMO 19 mission starting on September 7. This second of two missions will focus on the evaluation of tele-mentoring operations for ESA, which is when a crew member is given instruction for a task by an expert who is located remotely but is virtually present via a video and voice connection.

During the underwater missions, the NEEMO crews will live 62 feet below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean, 5.4 nautical miles off the coast of Key Largo, Florida, in Florida International University’s undersea research habitat Aquarius Reef Base, along with two professional habitat technicians.

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