NASA goes underwater (and goes social) to get set for asteroid mission

Posted: 06/18/2012 in all marine news

Alan Boyle –

If NASA’s underwater practice session is any indication of what a real space mission to an asteroid will be like, you can expect to follow along with the exploration of a near-Earth asteroid via Facebook, Twitter and the Web — or whatever takes their place by the year 2025.

There’s a string of chats and webcasts that let you in on the action at the Aquarius deep-sea habitat during the simulated mission, known as NEEMO 16.

As the “16” suggests, the space agency has been doing NEEMO — NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations — for more than a decade.

The idea is to simulate the logistics associated with an extended space mission, as well as the isolation, by sending an astronaut crew into the Aquarius, 63 feet (19 meters) below the Atlantic Ocean’s surface in the Florida Keys, and have them practice the routines they’d be doing in scuba gear.

This summer’s 12-day simulation began on Monday with the four-person crew’s “splashdown” into the sea.

The NEEMO 16 crew is headed by NASA astronaut Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger, who flew into space on the shuttle Discovery in 2010, and also includes Japanese astronaut Kimiya Yui, British astronaut Timothy Peake and Cornell astronomer Steve Squyres (who’s the top scientist on the Mars rover team, the chairman of the NASA Advisory Council, and a veteran of NEEMO 15).

Aquarius habitat technicians Justin Brown and James Talacek play support roles underwater.

Full story…

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