The latest 10-day NASA aquanaut expedition wrapped up this week off the coast of Florida. Dubbed NEEMO, the NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations project simulates space exploration conditions on the sea floor to test technology and train astronauts for off-planet expeditions.
ESA astronaut Pedro Duque joined this year’s six-man crew, NEEMO-22 (the 22nd NEEMO expedition), in the Aquarius underwater habitat, which included NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren as commander, planetary scientist Trevor Gradd, research scientist Dom D’Agostino and two support technicians.
Objectives this year included testing technology to track equipment and studying body composition and sleep.
The team also assessed new ESA hardware to help evacuate astronauts when on a lunar spacewalk. The Lunar Evacuation System Assembly (LESA) concept was developed and tested at ESA’s astronaut centre in Cologne, Germany.
When on a sortie in space, astronauts always head outside in pairs for safety. LESA will allow one astronaut to transport a colleague in need back to base and rescue. The system was tested in ESA’s neutral buoyancy facility and was put through an operational test during NEEMO-22.
Return to the surface involves decompression and took roughly 17 hours, compared to the five to six hours it normally takes to return to Earth from space.