NASA astronauts train underwater to mimic Mars mission

NASA  Karl Shreeves

NASA Karl Shreeves

Worldwide astronauts and professionals are also among the crew, including a couple folks from the European Space Agency.

During the 16-day NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) 21 expedition beginning July 21, an worldwide crew will explore tools and techniques being tested for future space exploration by living in simulated spacecraft conditions and conducting simulated spacewalks outside of their undersea habitat, Aquarius.

The close quarters of Aquarius station simulate the conditions of a space station located 20m underwater. They will travel to a deep region of the Atlantic Ocean to experience extreme conditions. Wiseman flew in space as part of Expedition 40/41 in 2014, spending 166 days living and working aboard the International Space Station. Before joining the space agency, McArthur worked on her doctorate in oceanography at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

NASA selected an Irish doctor from NUI Galway to oversee the health of a group of astronauts, engineers and scientists involved in the mission.

"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", stated Bill Todd, the NEEMO Project Lead.

The first of the mission's simulated Martian-gravity expedition will take place today, when the aquanauts construct a coral nursery near the underwater lab. The underwater crew will also test a mini DNA sequencer for use in the International Space Station, as well as telemedicine equipment for future space missions. It also offers microgravity environments like in the International Space Station (ISS). Another big feature of the exercise is testing communications and learning to deal with the delay that is similar to what they will encounter on a mission to Mars. The headset is called the mobiPV and allows astronauts to streams video with audio back to base hands-free.

But the astronauts are not by themselves; a ground control will follow them with their mobiPV, which was also previously tested. The ground control will be used during a mission in November by ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet. The device is being tested to see if it is possible to filter water cheaply and efficiently using a new type of biomimetic membrane that mimics nature. Objective of the initiative is to prepare the astronauts for hard space voyages by making them experience extreme environment here on earth, as per the space agency.

He was chosen for the job due to his successful track record in prior spaceflight and extreme environment missions.

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