Instead of spending a lot of resources with space-walking, astronauts train in underwater, Mars-like conditions. NASA’s latest mission is called NEEMO 21, which stands for Extreme Environment Mission Operations. This training mission is taking place on the ocean bed because it resembles Mars conditions.
The team of astronauts, scientists and engineers are making the last preparations for their underwater trip. Some of the people on the NEEMO team are Matthias Maurer from ESA (European Space Agency), NASA Astronauts Megan McArthur and Reid Wiseman and others.
For the purpose of the NEEMO mission, the group will operate by itself, on the sea bed. This type of isolated environment is perfect for simulating their 2030 mission to Mars. The Aquarius Reef Base, located 19 meters deep, is going to be their home for 16 days. The mission started on the 21st of July.
The NEEMO 21 group will take on complex experiments on the sea bed, using advanced techniques and equipment, which resemble the equipment which will be used during their Mars exploration. Bill Todd, Project Leader for NEEMO, stated that even though parts of the equipment might fail, communication will be hard to achieve, and tasks will last more than expected. However, other things will go as they should. Both situations have their own benefits in preparing astronauts for the harsh environment they will encounter on Mars.
Some new techniques and mechanical instruments will undergo testing below the ocean level. One of these tools is a telemedicine gadget. Samples taken from the sea bed will be used for marine biology and geology studies.
Astronauts will mimic spacewalks outside the Aquarius base and take charge of underwater machinery. One of the first challenges is going to be building a nursery for corals to put their low gravity constructing skills to good use.
Another novel task will be experimenting with a small DNA sequencer, which will serve on the International Space Station, too.
The NEEMO mission is the 21st underwater mission, since 2001. One of the aims is to reduce the delay in communications between the team and ground control. Communications typically take 15 minutes to reach Earth and another 15 minutes to reach Mars. The astronauts will conduct medical experiments with technology that could lead to better understanding aging and reverse its symptoms.
Image Source – Wikipedia