NASA's undersea mission submerges in the Atlantic

June 12, 2012

An international crew of aquanauts is settling into its home on the ocean floor, where the team will spend 12 days testing concepts for a potential asteroid mission. The expedition is the 16th excursion of the NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO). The crew of four began its mission in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Aquarius Reef Base undersea research habitat off the coast of Key Largo, Fla., at 11:04 a.m. EDT Monday.

NEEMO sends groups of astronauts, engineers and scientists to live in the Aquarius lab, 63 feet below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean. The laboratory is located in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. For NASA, Aquarius provides a convincing simulation to space exploration, and NEEMO crew members experience some of the same tasks and challenges under water that they would in space.

The NEEMO 16 mission will focus on three areas related to asteroid missions. The crew of aquanauts will investigate communication delays, restraint and translation techniques, and optimum crew size.

The isolation and microgravity environment of the ocean floor allows the NEEMO 16 crew to study and test concepts for how future exploration of asteroids might be conducted. NASA's and the Space rocket, which currently are in development, will allow people to begin exploring beyond the boundaries of Earth's orbit. The first human mission to an asteroid is planned for 2025.

NEEMO 16 Commander Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger of NASA will be joined by astronaut Timothy Peake; Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Kimiya Yui; and Steven W. Squyres, Goldwin Smith professor of astronomy at Cornell University and chairman of the NASA Advisory Council. Squyres also was a member of NEEMO 15.

The NEEMO crew members will be chronicling their mission using several social media outlets, blogs and live video streams from the crews' helmets, the air lock and outside the habitat. For additional information on the mission and links to the various ways to connect with NEEMO, visit:

Explore further: NASA Announces Next Undersea Exploration Mission Dates and Crew

Related Stories

NASA Undersea Mission Begins

August 7, 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 spaceflight ...

Astronomer Squyres becomes NASA aquanaut

October 21, 2011

Cornell professor of astronomy Steven Squyres, the lead scientist for NASA's Rover mission to Mars, has just taken the plunge as a NASA aquanaut.

Recommended for you

Getting into the flow on the International Space Station

December 1, 2015

Think about underground water and gas as they filter through porous materials like soil and rock beds. On Earth, gravity forces water and gas to separate as they flow through the ground, cleaning the water and storing it ...

Exiled exoplanet likely kicked out of star's neighborhood

December 1, 2015

A planet discovered last year sitting at an unusually large distance from its star - 16 times farther than Pluto is from the sun - may have been kicked out of its birthplace close to the star in a process similar to what ...

Cassini mission provides insight into Saturn

December 1, 2015

Scientists have found the first direct evidence for explosive releases of energy in Saturn's magnetic bubble using data from the Cassini spacecraft, a joint mission between NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Italian ...

Timing a sextuple quasar

December 1, 2015

Quasars are galaxies with massive black holes at their cores around which vast amounts of energy are being radiated. Indeed, so much light is emitted that the nucleus of a quasar is much brighter than the rest of the entire ...


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.