An international team of aquanauts will travel to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean to simulate a visit to an asteroid in the 16th expedition of NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO).
This year's NEEMO mission will begin June 11. It will build on lessons learned from 2011's NEEMO 15 mission and test innovative solutions to engineering challenges allowing astronauts to eventually explore asteroids.
"We're trying to look out into the future and understand how we'd operate on an asteroid," said Mike Gernhardt, NASA astronaut and NEEMO principal investigator. "You don't want to make a bunch of guesses about what you'll need and then get to the asteroid to find out it won't work the way you thought it would. NEEMO helps give us the information we need to make informed decisions now."
This NEEMO expedition will focus on three areas: communication delays, restraint and translation techniques, and optimum crew size.
The crew of four will spend 12 days living 63 feet below the Atlantic Ocean on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Aquarius Reef Base undersea research habitat off the coast of Key Largo, Fla.
NASA astronaut and former space shuttle crew member Dottie M. Metcalf-Lindenburger will lead the crew. She will be joined by fellow astronauts Kimiya Yui of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and Timothy Peake of the European Space Agency (ESA) and Cornell University professor Steven Squyres, who was also a NEEMO 15 crew member.