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Wondering how astronauts train to explore space? Read more about NEEMO!

Photo:   NASA Johnson

What exactly is NEEMO?

NEEMO stands for NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations. Extreme environments are conditions similar to what astronauts would experience in space. NEEMO takes place in the Aquarius underwater laboratory under 60 feet (about 18 meters) of water. The Aquarius habitat is located in Key Largo, Florida, and is owned by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). During NEEMO, astronauts, researchers, and other personnel live completely underwater for extended periods of time. While underwater, they conduct crucial research and experiments to better improve knowledge and understanding of space. To date, 23 operations have been conducted.

Photo:   NASA Johnson

What is the purpose of NEEMO and why are they important to space?

NEEMO’s function is to train future astronauts and conduct research. Training during NEEMO simulates what astronauts would expect to do in space. For example, trainees examine and collect coral, as one may do on the moon. They also wear heavy outer clothing like a space suit and practice moon-walking techniques. In addition, they may test out new technology to see how it holds up in such an extreme environment.

Photo:   NASA Johnson

What happened during the NEEMO 12 Operation in 2007?

The NEEMO 12 in 2007 was designed to test a special piece of medical technology called robotic telesurgery. In essence, this robot would be able to administer medical care in the case of emergencies in space or in other critical situations, overseen by a medical professional perhaps thousands of miles away. The crew of the NEEMO 12 included 2 NASA astronauts, including Martha Stefanyshyn-Piper, one NASA physician, a surgeon, and 2 technicians. The crew was underwater for 12 days and tested two robots. These robots were controlled remotely by school children and scientists. The mission ended up being a success!

Photo:   NASA Johnson

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

A Texas native, Bianca Navia is currently in her junior year at Arizona State University, pursuing a dual major in Political Science and Global Studies. She is most passionate about international affairs, diplomacy, foreign languages, traveling, and teaching. A fun fact about her? She’s the oldest of four sisters in a big Cuban-Italian-American family!


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