NASA recently announced that a team of astronauts will conduct scientific experiments, simulate spacewalks and try to overcome all the challenges of a low-gravity environment in the Aquarius Reef Base which is located 5.4 miles off Florida coast and 62 feet below the ocean surface.
The space agency explained that the ocean floor provides the perfect conditions to mimic the environment on the Red Planet, Moon and asteroids. The team will train for a manned mission to Mars, but other space objectives could also benefit from the program.
The NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) had its debut on July 21 and is expected to last for 16 days. On the seafloor, astronauts will be able to experience the conditions in a microgravity setting.
During the training session, crew members will test several scientific tools that will make their lives and work easier during their deep space trips. Researchers have already tested a DNA sequencer, which gathers valuable DNA information on living organisms and can keep track of the astronauts’ health. The device is tested in the meantime on the International Space Station as well.
Bill Todd, senior team member for NEEMO said that the crew would have a direct experience of the work and life conditions on the Red Planet with help from state-of-the-art science and navigational instruments that had been adjusted to underwater conditions in a way that simulates a Mars exploration mission.
NASA also said that the astronauts will get out of the Aquarius to control submerged robotic vehicles and simulate spacewalks. Their first goal is to help local authorities re-spawn corals by building a coral nursery.
The task will enable crew members to see how skillful they really are at building structures in microgravity. During the ”spacewalks” astronauts will also collect rock samples and use the DNA sequencer on marine life.
Additionally, the team will test the delays in communications they will experience in their real space journeys. Both NASA and the European Space Agency, which agreed to take part in the mission, hope that the training will prepare astronauts for other missions, not just a Mars one.
According to an ESA’s statement, the team will also test two other tools underwater: the mobiPV wearable and the AquaPad. The mobiPV is a hands-free device that allows astronauts to have access to scientific information when their hands are occupied with various science tasks, while the Aquapad filters used water in a natural and cost-effective way.
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