NASA has embarked on a bold new mission, and it's taking them to the bottom of the ocean.
Everybody knows about NASA – they’re the people who work around the clock studying the vast, mysterious universe from our tiny vantage point here on Earth. NASA scientists are currently undertaking a massive effort to send astronauts on a mission to Mars, and to simulate the conditions on the long journey ahead, a team of scientists and astronauts will be traveling to an unlikely locale – the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.
The 16-day training exercise, named NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations, or NEEMO, will give crewmembers a taste of what it’s like to live and work in the isolation of deep space. The mission, which began on July 21, also includes simulated spacecraft conditions and even mock spacewalks outside the team’s underwater dwelling, named Aquarius.
The crew will carry out a number of studies during their stay at the bottom of the ocean, including testing a mini DNA sequencer that is also slated to be used on the International Space Station. During the spacewalk simulations, the crew will practice collecting and storing samples of rocks and organic materials found on the sea floor.
The crew will face a number of challenges during the mission, including the extremely limited communications capabilities likely to be experienced during the trip to Mars. They will also spend time working on a coral restoration project.
According to NEEMO project leader Bill Todd, “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.”