NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations undersea mission launches
HOUSTON, 15 Oct. 2011. Aquanauts will both the test equipment and operations required for exploration of near-Earth asteroids (NEAs) during the 15th NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations undersea mission known as NEEMO 15 between Oct. 17 and 29. As part of the NEEMO project, NASA employees and contractors live in the Aquarius Reef Base undersea research lab, owned by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), in Key Largo, Fla., for up to three weeks at a time. The 2011 NEEMO mission will be the first to simulate humans visiting an asteroid. A six-member crew led by Walker will spend 13 days beneath the surface in the Aquarius habitat, testing concepts and techniques for asteroid exploration.
“Aquarius provides a convincing analog to space exploration, and NEEMO crewmembers experience some of the same tasks and challenges underwater as they would in space,” according to a NASA spokesperson.
The Mobile Mission Control Center, which houses advanced lab equipment and computers, supports the underwater crew of the NEEMO mission aboard the Aquarius undersea laboratory.
Aquanauts conducted engineering tests for NEEMO 15 at Aquarius in May 2011.
Among the crew of NEEMO 15 are NASA astronaut/aquanaut Shannon Walker (from Texas), Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Takuya Onishi, Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques, and Steven Squyres of Cornell University. Other crew members include James Talacek and Nate Bender of the University of North Carolina in Wilmington. In addition, NASA astronauts Stan Love, Richard Arnold, and Mike Gernhardt will participate in the mission as pilots of the DeepWorker submersible, a small submarine that will serve as an underwater stand-in for the Space Exploration Vehicle, which might be used to explore the surface of an asteroid.