NASA’sunderwater ‘asteroid’ mission floats past midway point

Posted: 10/30/2011 in all marine news

Denise Chow – 

A team of astronauts and scientists who are living and working on the ocean floor as part of a simulated trip to an asteroid are nearing the halfway mark of their 13-day mission.

Six “aquanauts” are experimenting with different ways to anchor to an asteroid, explore its surface, and perform science on the space rock.

The mission is the 15th expedition of NASA’s Extreme Environment Mission Operations, or NEEMO, and the first to simulate aspects of a manned mission to an asteroid. The crewmembers splashed down on Oct. 20 and are now living at the Aquarius Underwater Laboratory, which sits 60 feet (18 meters) below the Atlantic Ocean, about 3 1/2 miles off the shore of Key Largo, Fla.

NASA uses the facility, which is owned by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), to approximate the weightless conditions in space and on an asteroid.

“We have just brought in our first two aquanauts from their excursion testing new ways to do science on an asteroid,” NEEMO 15 commander Shannon Walker said in a video update on the crew’s second day underwater.

“They spent about three hours this morning outside in the water looking at different techniques to try and collect rock samples.”

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