The 21st mission to give astronauts a feel for what it’s like to live in space is underway, or should we say, underwater.
The NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO)‘s 16-day mission is to test tools and techniques for future space exploration by living in simulated spacecraft conditions and conducting simulated spacewalks outside of their undersea habitat, the Aquarius, the world’s only underwater research lab, according to the space agency.
Aquarius rests at 62 feet/19 meters below the surface on a sand patch near coral reefs in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. It’s the same habitat oceans advocate Fabien Cousteau lived in for 31 days back in 2014.
NEEMO Project Lead Bill Todd says:
“NEEMO 21 astronauts and crew will pioneer complex tasks on the seafloor utilizing the most advanced underwater navigation and science tools which are methodically choreographed to mimic a Mars exploration traverse. Equipment can fail, communication can be challenging and tasks can take longer than expected. Other tasks go just as planned. All cases are equally beneficial. It’s how we learn and how we are able to assemble all of this together so that someday we’re prepared for the unexpected when we are living on and traversing the Martian surface.”