NASA to Go Boldly to the Bottom of the Sea
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Posted 08 May 2010 - 09:47 AM
Two astronauts, a veteran undersea engineer and an experienced scientist will soon find themselves in the ocean depths off the east coast of Florida in a mock space mission to test exploration concepts and learn more about working in an unforgiving, treacherous environment.
NASA on Tuesday announced the 14th expedition, which is part of NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations, or NEEMO. The 14-day undersea mission is scheduled to begin May 10.
Canadian Space Agency astronaut Chris Hadfield, a veteran spacewalker, will lead the NASA expedition to the Aquarius Underwater Laboratory, which rests more than 62 feet (18 meters) below the ocean's surface off the coast of Key Largo in the Florida Keys. The NEEMO 14 mission will use the ocean floor to simulate aspects of another planet's surface and a low-gravity environment.
In October 2009, a team of aquanauts prepared for the NEEMO 14 expedition by placing mockups of a lander, rover and small crane that simulates a robotic arm near the Aquarius laboratory.
Mock space mission ahead
The NEEMO 14 crew will live aboard the underwater laboratory, venture out on simulated spacewalks, operate the crane and maneuver the vehicles in much the same way as astronaut explorers would in setting up a habitat on another planet. As the aquanauts operate and test these developing technologies, they will provide information and valuable feedback to NASA engineers.
The crew is expected to simulate removing a mockup of the Lunar Electric Rover from the lander, retrieve small payloads from the lander and the ocean floor, and simulate the transfer of an incapacitated astronaut from the ocean floor to the deck of the craft.
The rover and lander mockups are comparable in size to vehicles that NASA is considering for future planetary exploration.
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