NASA has announced it will send an international crew to train for spacewalks in the Atlantic Depths. The NEEMO 20 expedition is planned for July 20.
NEEMO is NASA’s mission program that handles astronaut training by sending them to the Aquarius Research Station in order to prepare them for space walks and exploration. Aquarius is the only undersea research station in the world, and offers the chance for astronauts to test their equipment and skills in tough environments.
The aim is to test both the astronauts and their tools in similar conditions to those experienced in space. Many repair and maintenance operations need refined skills which can be developed in the underwater facility surroundings at 62 feet.
The international team can also practice their long range spacewalks in the deep coral reef situated close to the deep sea station. The astronauts have to train for missions in different environments and gravity levels varying in terms of mission complexity.
Everyone has seen images of astronauts dressed in full space gear training for space conditions, but under the Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) humans can test their own skills and behavior over several weeks in a sealed underwater habitat.
Not only this but considering the environment, and the option for testing long space walks in the deep nearby coral reef, telecommunication delays and other issues can be addressed in a safer environment than that of outer space.
The first NEEMO program was launched on the 21th of October 2001 and lasted until the 27th of the same month. It was commanded by the Space Station training Instructor Bill Todd, which was joined by several astronauts, among which two Americans and one Canadian.
Bill Todd who was the Project Leader for NASA’s Undersea Research Team, wrote on NEMO 1’s first mission day “In contrast to the eight and a half minute flight to space where 7 million pounds of thrust were propelling us to low earth orbit, the leisurely swim to the habitat seemed quite surreal”.
He perfectly described why NASA wants to test some of its equipment and men first on the Aquarius Research Station before sending them to space.
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