ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet aboard the NEEMO submersible used for the NEEMO NXT underwater campaign.
Testing new technology, tools, techniques and training programmes for space exploration starts on Earth and space agencies head to extreme environments to put their ideas into practice, simulating aspects of space.
ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet, NASA astronaut Drew Feustel and Japan space agency (JAXA) astronaut Norishige Kanai will take part in a new NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) mission off the coast of California, USA, to assess concepts for undersea training that will aid our next steps on the Moon.
This expedition is investigating a new concept for NEEMO with greater focus on exploration and a return to the Moon in 2024. Unlike previous NEEMO missions, the astronauts, also known as aquanauts, will not live underwater but resurface each day to stay on the island of Santa Catalina.
Thomas and Drew will test submersibles and underwater suits to judge whether the new location is suitable as a stand-in for the environment astronauts will encounter on the Moon. Thomas is assigned as submersible pilot for the mission.
The underwater world offers similar geological features to the Moon and putting ideas to the test under high workload, real-world stress, and the unexpected problems that come with field work is one of the only ways to iron out any kinks in new exploration approaches and techniques.