NASA Undersea Expedition Simulates a Mission to An Asteroid

Nasa-neemo15-mission (1)

In this NASA image, a configured rock wall can be seen near the underwater Aquarius laboratory of NASA's NEEMO 15 expedition that simulates a mission to an asteroid more than 62 feet (19 meters) below the ocean's surface, off the coast of Key Largo in the Florida Keys. For NASA, Aquarius provides a convincing analog to space exploration, and NEEMO crewmembers experience some of the same tasks and challenges underwater as they would in space.


NEEMO 15's prime mission objectives will be to test operational concepts needed to explore near-Earth asteroids. As the aquanauts operate and test these concepts, they will provide information and valuable feedback to NASA engineers.

This week, engineers are laying the foundations for the 15th expedition of NASA's Extreme Environment Mission Operations, or NEEMO 15 for short, which is scheduled to begin on Oct. 17. To prepare for that fall undersea mission, diving crews are setting up the tools and rocky environment needed to simulate an asteroid zero-gravity landscape.

To prepare for the 10-day October mission, various engineering tests will be conducted from May 9 to May 13 at the Aquarius laboratory. The NEEMO support team will perform surface dives to lay out the test site, including configuring a rock wall, NASA officials said.

"The rock wall is going to be used to simulate the surface of an asteroid," Dean told SPACE.com. "For the engineering tests, it will be 16 by 12 feet. It's made of fiberglass panels. They'll try out different anchoring methods on it –- drilling into it or using metal plates to simulate magnetic anchoring."

The team will also check the communications system and perform preliminary tests for NEEMO 15. While the scientists and engineers will be hard at work on the ocean floor, they will not stay inside Aquarius.

Unlike landing on the moon or Mars, an asteroid will have little, if any, gravity to exert on astronauts or their vehicles. NEEMO 15 will evaluate different anchoring methods, and different ways to connect multiple anchors to form pathways.

"Even experts don't know what the surface of an asteroid is going to be like," NEEMO Project Manager Bill Todd said in a statement. "There may be asteroids that we don't even know about yet that we'll be visiting. So we're figuring out the best way to do that." [5 Reasons to Care About Asteroids]

NEEMO 15's prime mission objectives will be to test operational concepts needed to explore near-Earth asteroids. As the aquanauts operate and test these concepts, they will provide information and valuable feedback to NASA engineers.

"Unlike Mars or the moon, asteroids have very little gravity," Dean said. "Performing spacewalks on asteroids will be similar to performing spacewalks at the space station. Performing the tasks underwater is one of the best ways to simulate what it would be like to perform them in space. That's why astronauts practice for spacewalks underwater at the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory."

Manned deepwater submersibles that function as Space Exploration Vehicles (SEVs) will also be used, and the aquanauts will perform Extra-Vehicular Activities (EVAs) to assess the efficiency of different operations.

NASA uses the Aquarius laboratory and the ocean floor to simulate aspects of a low-gravity environment and to help researchers understand factors relevant for real space missions.

NEEMO 15's prime mission objectives will be to test operational concepts needed to explore near-Earth asteroids. As the aquanauts operate and test these concepts, they will provide information and valuable feedback to NASA engineers.

This week, engineers are laying the foundations for the 15th expedition of NASA's Extreme Environment Mission Operations, or NEEMO 15 for short, which is scheduled to begin on Oct. 17. To prepare for that fall undersea mission, diving crews are setting up the tools and rocky environment needed to simulate an asteroid zero-gravity landscape.

To prepare for the 10-day October mission, various engineering tests will be conducted from May 9 to May 13 at the Aquarius laboratory. The NEEMO support team will perform surface dives to lay out the test site, including configuring a rock wall, NASA officials said.

The team will also check the communications system and perform preliminary tests for NEEMO 15. While the scientists and engineers will be hard at work on the ocean floor, they will not stay inside Aquarius.

Unlike landing on the moon or Mars, an asteroid will have little, if any, gravity to exert on astronauts or their vehicles. NEEMO 15 will evaluate different anchoring methods, and different ways to connect multiple anchors to form pathways.

NEEMO 15's prime mission objectives will be to test operational concepts needed to explore near-Earth asteroids. As the aquanauts operate and test these concepts, they will provide information and valuable feedback to NASA engineers.

Manned deepwater submersibles that function as Space Exploration Vehicles (SEVs) will also be used, and the aquanauts will perform Extra-Vehicular Activities (EVAs) to assess the efficiency of different operations.

The Daily Galaxy via NASA/Aquarius

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