Tim gets his feet wet

Apr 18, 2012
NEEMO 11 crewmember in 2006 during a ’waterwalk’ for NASA’s Extreme Environment Mission Operations project (NEEMO). A permanent underwater base almost 20 m below the waves off the coast of Florida allows astronauts to get a feeling of how it is to work and live in space, learning to cope as individuals and as a team in stressful situations. Credits: NASA

ESA astronaut Timothy Peake will soon dive to the bottom of the sea to learn more about exploring space. A permanent underwater base almost 20 m below the waves off the coast of Florida will be Tim’s home for more than a week in June.

The NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations, or NEEMO, allows space agencies to test technologies and research international crew behaviour for long-duration missions.

get a feeling of how it is to work and live in space, learning to cope as individuals and as a team to stressful situations.

During their 10-day stay in the underwater base, the aquanauts will conduct ‘waterwalks’ to perform repairs simulating real spacewalks.  

They will have to solve problems on their own. Even in an emergency, they will not be able to come up to the surface immediately.

Spending only a few hours deep underwater requires a safety stop and decompression before coming back up. There is no quick emergency exit from the NEEMO base.

NEEMO 11 crewmember in 2006 during a ’waterwalk’ for NASA’s Extreme Environment Mission Operations project (NEEMO). A permanent underwater base almost 20 m below the waves off the coast of Florida allows astronauts to get a feeling of how it is to work and live in space, learning to cope as individuals and as a team in stressful situations. Credits: NASA

“NEEMO is the best space exploration analogue used in official astronaut training, followed tightly by ESA’s cave training program,” says astronaut trainer Loredana Bessone from the European Astronaut Centre.

“When I dived down to the underwater habitat, it looked exactly how I imagine a lunar base will look like.

“Aquanauts were ‘floating’ around in slow motion, performing repairs and mounting equipment. I could not take my eyes off the scene.”

Tim’s training starts on 11 June and will center on exploring asteroids – communication delays, anchoring to the surface and crew size.

Training astronauts for space requires remote and inhospitable places to test their reactions to stress and their ability to work in an international team. ESA and international partners also send astronauts underground in Sardinia in Italy for cave training.

Caves are not only humid - they can be very wet. ESA’s cave training prepares astronauts to work as an international team in real exploration conditions. Sending astronauts underground to survive and explore Sardinian caves in Italy for almost a week is just one element of their long training. The Sardinian caves are isolated from the outside world. Astronauts need to get used to confined spaces, minimal privacy, technical challenges as well as limited equipment and supplies - just as in space. Credits: ESA-V. Crobu

The astronauts have to adjust to this extreme environment, where life depends on their equipment and how they use it. They must show team ingenuity in resolving issues and overcoming obstacles.

Learning to work as a team in isolation, with no outside help and only limited rescue capabilities, is part of becoming an effective astronaut. The ‘right stuff’ can be learned, with the right instruction.

This is the first time that an ESA astronaut is joining a NEEMO mission and, in exchange, NASA will send astronauts to participate in ESA’s cave training later this year.

The base will hold an international crew of six. Tim will work with crew leader Dottie M. Metcalf-Lindenburger, a NASA astronaut who flew on the Shuttle. Kimiya Yui of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency will complete the astronaut line-up.

From today Tim Peake will be tweeting about his training in addition to making entries in the astronaut blog. See the links to the right.

Explore further: SDO captures images of two mid-level flares

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Cave crew returns to Earth

Oct 24, 2011

Take five astronauts and instead of sending them into space take them underground. ESA’s CAVES venture prepares astronauts to work in an international team under real exploration conditions. The latest ...

NASA evacuates astronauts from deep-sea training

Oct 26, 2011

NASA evacuated a crew of astronauts Wednesday from an underwater lab off the coast of Florida where they were training for a trip to an asteroid, due to the approach of Hurricane Rina.

NASA Undersea Mission Begins

Aug 07, 2007

Three astronauts and a Constellation Program aerospace engineer began a 10-day NASA mission in the ocean depths off the Florida coast Aug. 6. They will test lunar exploration concepts and a suite of long-duration ...

Season's greetings from the other extreme

Dec 23, 2011

It is summer in Antarctica and the new crew for the Concordia research station will soon arrive. And since the place is second only to space for harsh conditions, they have been trained courtesy of ESA.

Recommended for you

SDO captures images of two mid-level flares

Dec 19, 2014

The sun emitted a mid-level flare on Dec. 18, 2014, at 4:58 p.m. EST. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, which watches the sun constantly, captured an image of the event. Solar flares are powerful bursts ...

Why is Venus so horrible?

Dec 19, 2014

Venus sucks. Seriously, it's the worst. The global temperature is as hot as an oven, the atmospheric pressure is 90 times Earth, and it rains sulfuric acid. Every part of the surface of Venus would kill you ...

Image: Christmas wrapping the Sentinel-3A antenna

Dec 19, 2014

The moment a team of technicians, gowned like hospital surgeons, wraps the Sentinel-3A radar altimeter in multilayer insulation to protect it from the temperature extremes found in Earth orbit.

Video: Flying over Becquerel

Dec 19, 2014

This latest release from the camera on ESA's Mars Express is a simulated flight over the Becquerel crater, showing large-scale deposits of sedimentary material.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.