News / USA

Astronauts to Aquanauts; NASA Conducts Experiments on Sea Floor

Astronauts to Aquanauts; NASA Conducts Experiments on Sea Floor
Astronauts to Aquanauts; NASA Conducts Experiments on Sea Floor

Multimedia

Audio

It is easy to conjure up images of astronauts working in space, but there are also astronauts living and working on the sea floor, where they conduct experiments to prepare for future space missions.

Canadian Space Agency astronaut Chris Hadfield has spent most of the past two weeks  about 19 meters below the waves off the Florida coast.  He is leading a two-week NASA mission aboard the Aquarius Underwater Laboratory, which is run by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Hadfield's team includes a NASA astronaut, an undersea engineer and a scientist.  They live inside Aquarius, and they run experiments in the lab and explore the blue depths outside the porthole windows.

"I found that when I was working outside here over the last couple of weeks, I would suddenly notice where I am while I'm working.  I'm busy working on some part of a space suit design, and then an angel fish goes by or a ray scuttles across the bottom of the ocean, and it reminds me of both the comfort-level I've gotten to and the amazing difference of where I am," he said.

Hadfield is on the sea floor inside the Aquarius underwater habitat's 122 square meters of living and working space.  It is anchored next to a coral reef, five and half kilometers off Key Largo in the Florida Keys.

But even on the ocean floor, Aquarius is visible on the World Wide Web.  Commander Hadfield can be seen via webcam on NASA's web site.  He stands in a narrow white room with stainless steel equipment as he speaks to reporters using something that looks akin to a cordless phone.  

It is the round window that looks out into the pale blue water that provides the biggest clue to Hadfield's whereabouts.  The view might be serene, but the undersea environment is potentially deadly to humans, just as space is.  Hadfield would know.  He has completed two spacewalks in his 18 years as an astronaut, and he says there are similarities between working in space and in the sea.

"They are remarkably similar. You are wearing gear to protect you from an environment that would kill you.  Every breath is amplified so you sound like [famed Star War's character] Darth Vader when you're out walking around out there.  You're listening to help from someone inside the vehicle and someone back at mission control, as they try to help give you advice as you work on something complex outside," he said.

The crew has performed a series of activities outside Aquarius, similar to ones astronauts would perform in space.  They use near-scale mockup vehicles and conduct off-loading, retrieval and survival missions.  

Meanwhile, Hadfield is working to develop a more functional space suit that would allow astronauts to travel beyond the International Space Station.  He says this task requires simulating gravity on the Moon, Mars and elsewhere.

"Of course, we are testing space suits for different levels of gravity.  We want to be ready to explore an asteroid, which has almost no gravity. It's similar to a space walk on the space station.    But how do you control where you are if you can't regularly grab on to man-made handholds or places to click in your feet?"

He says these underwater tests help astronauts figure out how much mass they need to propel themselves forward.  

The crew and mission control have also experimented with communication delays, from the brief delay astronauts experience on the space station to the roughly 20-minute delay that could exist on Mars.  

Crew members also study the ways their bodies react to extreme environments and changes in pressure by monitoring their heartbeats and using radar to chart their blood flow.

By the time the 14-day mission wraps Monday, the crew will have conducted a total of 52 so-called "space walks" in the sea.  

At the end of the mission they will ascend to the water's surface over the course of about 16 hours, at a rate of roughly one meter per hour, so their bodies can adjust to the changes in pressure.

Watch a NASA Video on NEEMO and Other Exploration Field Tests

You May Like

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festivali
X
April 24, 2015 4:09 AM
Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Keeping Washington Airspace Safe Is Tall Order

Being the home of all three branches of the U.S. federal government makes Washington, D.C. the prime target for those who want to make their messages and ideas heard. Unfortunately, many of them choose to deliver them in unorthodox ways, including from the air, as a recent incident clearly showed involving a gyrocopter landing on the Capitol’s West Lawn. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.
Video

Video Hope, Prayer Enter Fight Against S. Africa Xenophobia

South Africa has been swept by disturbing attacks on foreign nationals. Some blame the attacks on a legacy of colonialism, while others say the economy is to blame. Whatever the cause, ordinary South Africans - and South African residents from around the world - say they're praying for the siege of violence to end. Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.

VOA Blogs