Last week on Thursday, NASA sent down a team of astronauts and scientists over 60 feet below sea level for an expedition of 16 days. NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations 21 (NEEMO), is devised to simulate scenarios that could arise during future Mars missions.
Astronauts, engineers and scientists from space agencies from around the world have gone down for a few days in the Aquarius habitat, where they are going to conduct experiments and even go on simulated dives. They use the buoyancy simulator to simulate the gravity of Mars.
Six crew members have gone under the sea and a support team of around seventy members is working on keeping the mission running from land.
The aim of the astronauts is to test the equipment including the mobiPV. It is a system that gives them AV instructions when they have to go off the base. It has been previously tested in previous NEEMO missions and also once on the ISS. This test run will influence the design of a new prototype that is going to go to space in 2017.
NEEMO explorers are using the system along with other VR gizmos to help them with their experiments. They have also tested a miniPCR system, which is soon going to be flown into space.
The astronauts will have to go through a decompression that may last up to sixteen hours before they return to Earth. This process lasts longer than the return from the International Space Station (three hours).
NASA astronaut Megan McArthur and the ESA’s Matthias Maurer are going to stay on Aquarius for the entire mission’s length. For now, they’re accompanied by NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman and researcher Marc O’Griofa. Halfway through the mission Wiseman and O’Griofa will be replaced by Research Scientist Dawn Kernagis of Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition and Noel Du Toit, a Naval Postgraduate School Researcher.
At that time NASA’s McArthur will assume command of the vessel. The crew is also accompanied by two habitat technicians.