The space agency sent 6 astronauts to explore the depths of the waters of the Florida Keys for 10 days. The objectives behind a key mission for the subsequent conquest of the Moon and Mars
Accustomed to making expeditions thousands of kilometers from Earth, to the unreachable heights of space, NASA decided, in this case, to descend into the depths of the ocean. After ten days of intense work, the agents returned after finishing with NEEMO, The Mission of Operations in Extreme Environments.
In fact, it is not the first time that NASA is conducting an aquatic mission. In fact, the recently completed edition is number 22 of NEEMO. Participants lived in the Aquarius module, ten kilometers off the coast of the Florida Keys. The “aquatic house” has the same operation as that of a space base. Its members make frequent outings that are added to different scientific and technical experiments.
NASA seeks to simulate the exploration conditions they would have in space. This type of missions allows testing technologies and serves as a training base for astronauts who will travel in future expeditions outside the Earth.
The last marine exploration included six specialists: the Spaniard Pedro Duque, the crew commander Kjell Lindgren, the scientists Trevor Gradd and Dom D’Agostino and two assistance technicians. In edition 22, in addition to testing new equipment, we sought to study the response of the body and sleep in abnormal conditions.
The team tested a new machine designed by the European Space Agency, the Lunar Evacuation System Set (LESA), which serves to contribute to the rapid departure of astronauts during space rides. The device has a crane and a stretcher so an astronaut can help a companion and I can transport it in case he can not do it on his own.
Space walks extended between three and five hours with one or two daily departures to the outside. “We do not go with bottles, like the submariners, but with a few diver’s helmets for which the air is supplied to us,” Duque had explained to Efe. Thanks to the adjustment of the buoyancy, with extra weight, they simulate the levels of gravity that appear in the Moon, Mars and in the Asteroids. They foresee how the displacements will be there.
In turn, during their walks, the crew explored the depths and collected previously planted corals to study them on the surface. They also tested a machine to sequence genes. “We tried all the procedures to be sure that the above will work,” said the Spanish astronaut.
The return to the surface from the bottom of the sea was much longer than the laps from space: it took about 17 hours for the need for decompression. Aquanauts must go through that process to remove excess inert gas through respiration.