Press Release

NASA Crew Goes Underwater to Study Outer Space

By SpaceRef Editor
July 7, 2004
Filed under , ,
NASA Crew Goes Underwater to Study Outer Space

Four NASA crewmembers will look to the deep seas this
month to help prepare for journeys into deep space. They’ll
use an undersea laboratory to study what it may be like to
live and work in other extreme environments, such as the Moon
and Mars.

Astronaut John Herrington will lead the crew in an undersea
mission July 12-21 that will field-test equipment and
technology for the International Space Station as part of the
NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) project.
Astronauts Doug Wheelock and Nick Patrick will join
Herrington, a veteran space flier and spacewalker, and
biomedical engineer Tara Ruttley in the Aquarius Underwater
Laboratory off the coast of Key Largo, Fla., for the mission.

University of North Carolina at Wilmington (UNCW) systems
engineers Craig Cooper and Joe March will work side by side
with the NASA crew in Aquarius. The facility is owned by the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA),
operated by UNCW and funded by NOAA’s Undersea Research
Program. The NEEMO missions are a cooperative project of
NASA, NOAA and UNCW. Aquarius is similar in size to the
International Space Station’s (ISS) living quarters.

This will be the sixth NASA mission to Aquarius to practice
long-duration life in space. It will study life in extreme
environments in support of future human exploration beyond
Earth orbit, evaluate equipment that may be used on the ISS
and perform scientific research on the human body and coral
reefs. The crew also will build undersea structures to
simulate ISS assembly.

As the current NEEMO “aquanauts” conduct their mission, a
former Aquarius aquanaut is living on the Space Station. Mike
Fincke arrived April 21 for a six-month tour as Expedition 9
flight engineer and NASA science officer. Schedulers for both
crews are looking for a ship-to-ship conversation

“NEEMO is not a simulation. It’s a real mission with real
risks in a hazardous environment. If we’re going to send
humans back to the Moon and on to Mars, we’re going to need
economical ways to get our feet wet here on Earth,” said
NEEMO 6 Mission Director Marc Reagan. “With NEEMO we have an
analog of such high fidelity that we can field-test equipment
and procedures before we try them in space. On this mission
we’ll focus on exercise equipment, anti-microbial technology
and wireless tracking technology that are likely to be found
on the Space Station in the near future,” he added.

Aquarius is the world’s only underwater habitat and research
laboratory. The 45-foot long, 13-foot diameter complex is
three miles off Key Largo in the Florida Keys National Marine
Sanctuary. It rests about 62 feet beneath the surface.

A buoy on the surface that provides power, life support and
communications capabilities supports Aquarius. A shore-based
mission control for the Aquarius laboratory in Florida and a
control room at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, known as the
Exploration Planning Operations Center, will monitor the
crew’s activities.

For additional information about the NEEMO project on the
Internet, visit:

In addition to research and construction, the NEEMO crew will
participate in six educational videoconferences and one
webcast/web chat. Students across the U.S. will have the
opportunity to participate in these events. More information
is available at:

Video to accompany this release will air on NASA Television
as part of the NASA Video File. NASA TV is available on AMC-
9, transponder 9C, C-Band, located at 85 degrees west
longitude. The frequency is 3880.0 MHz. Polarization is
vertical, and audio is monaural at 6.80 MHz.

The crew’s schedule includes opportunities for media
interviews during the undersea mission. Reporters should
contact the Johnson Space Center newsroom at 281/483-5111.

SpaceRef staff editor.