Posted: Friday, September 1, 2006
NASA's third mission this year to an undersea laboratory off the Florida coast begins when four astronauts splash down Sept. 16.
Veteran space flyer astronaut Sandra H. Magnus will lead the crew on a seven-day undersea mission Sept. 16 - 22 onboard the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Aquarius underwater laboratory. Army Lt. Col. Timothy L. Kopra, Army Col. Timothy J. Creamer and Air Force Maj. Robert L. Behnken round out the astronaut crew. Roger Garcia and Larry Ward of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington will provide engineering support inside the habitat. All four astronauts are training for possible assignment to missions to the International Space Station.
During the NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) 11, astronauts will imitate moonwalks, testing concepts for mobility using various spacesuit configurations and weights to simulate lunar gravity. Techniques for communication, navigation, geological sample retrieval, construction and using remote-controlled robots on the moon's surface also will be tested.
"We continue to press the limits of our imaginations as we test operational concepts that may be used when we return to the moon," said NEEMO 11 Mission Director Marc Reagan. "Building on the NEEMO 9 and 10 missions, we will explore new challenges and learn to overcome the inherent difficulties of living and working on the moon. These results will allow our designers and engineers to improve designs of habitats, robots and spacesuits."
Aquarius is owned and funded by NOAA and operated by the University of North Carolina at Wilmington's Undersea Research Center. The center is part of NOAA's Undersea Research Program. Aquarius hosts teams of scientists on research missions, usually 10 days long, to study science and management issues on its surrounding coral reef ecosystems.
Aquarius is a 45-foot-long, 13-foot-diameter complex three miles off Key Largo in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. The laboratory rests 62 feet beneath the surface. A shore-based mission control center in Florida monitors the habitat and crew. The NEEMO 11 work will be monitored at NASA's Johnson Space Center's Exploration Planning Operations Center, Houston. This is the last NEEMO mission this year. More are planned in 2007.
Magnus flew to the International Space Station on shuttle mission STS-112 in October 2002. She used the station's robotic arm to help attach a new segment to the station's truss structure. Magnus was born in Belleville, Ill. She has a bachelor's in physics and a master's in electrical engineering from the University of Missouri-Rolla and a doctorate from the Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta.
Kopra was selected as an astronaut in 2000 and is assigned to the Space Station Operations Branch of the Astronaut Office. He was born in Austin,Texas. He holds a bachelor's from the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, N.Y., and a master's in aerospace engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology.
Selected as an astronaut in 1998, Creamer works in the Robotics Branch of the Astronaut Office. Creamer considers Upper Marlboro, Md., his hometown. He has a bachelor's from Loyola College and a master's from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge.
Behnken was selected as an astronaut in 2000. He considers St. Ann, Mo., his hometown. He has bachelor's degrees in mechanical engineering and physics from Washington University, St. Louis, and a master's and doctorate in mechanical engineering from the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif. He is a graduate of the Air Force Test Pilot School, Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.
For interviews with the NEEMO 11 crew call the Johnson newsroom at 281-483-5111. For more on NOAA, contact Fred Gorell, Silver Spring, Md., at 301-713-9444, ext. 181. Through NASA's Digital Learning Network (DLN), classrooms will be able to videoconference with Aquarius. Students will conduct experiments of their own before talking with the aquanauts. The pre-event activities are designed to complement the NEEMO 11 mission objectives.
For more information about NEEMO, including mission imagery, crew journals, and links to webcams and the Digital Learning Network, visit:
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