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Exploration in Extreme Environments: Under Water and in Outer Space

Living in the depths of the sea…to prepare for travel in deep space. 

Sounds strange, but that’s what our NEEMO expedition aims to do.

This 10-day NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) 22 expedition is slated to begin on June 18. NEEMO 22 will focus on both exploration spacewalks (or in this case waterwalks?) and objectives related to the International Space Station and deep space missions.

Analog (noun): is a situation on Earth that produces effects on the body similar to those experienced in space, both physical and mental/emotional. These studies help us prepare for long duration missions.

As an analog for future planetary science concepts and strategies, marine science also will be performed under the guidance of Florida International University’s marine science department.

NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren will command the NEEMO 22 mission aboard the Aquarius laboratory, 62 feet below the ocean surface near Key Largo Florida. Lindgren was part of the space station Expeditions 44 and 45 in 2015, where he spent 141 days living and working in the extreme environment of space. He also conducted two spacewalks.

Fun Fact: These underwater explorers are referred to as “aquanauts”

Lindgren will be joined by ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Pedro Duque, Trevor Graff, a Jacobs Engineering employee working as a planetary scientist at our Johnson Space Center; and research scientists Dom D’Agostino from the University of South Florida and the Florida Institute of Human and Machine Cognition.

While living underwater for 10 days, the crew will:

  • Test spaceflight countermeasure equipment
  • Validate technology for precisely tracking equipment in a habitat
  • Complete studies of body composition and sleep
  • Assess hardware sponsored by ESA that will help crew members evacuate someone who has been injured on a lunar spacewalk

Why do we use Analog Missions?

Analog missions prepare us for near-future exploration to asteroids, Mars and the moon. Analogs play a significant role in problem solving for spaceflight research.

  • Not all experiments can be done in space – there is not enough time, money, equipment and manpower
  • Countermeasures can be tested in analogs before trying them in space. Those that do not work in analogs will not be flown in space
  • Ground-based analog studies are completed more quickly and less expensively

For more information about the NEEMO mission, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/NEEMO/index.html

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