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

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Before burial at overflowing cemeteries, unidentified dead being swapped for DNA, in case some day relatives come to learn their fate

    Russian Opposition Leader Sues Putin for Conflict of Interest

    Alexei Navalny tells VOA in exclusive interview why transfer of $2 billion from country’s wealth fund to company with ties to President Putin’s son-in-law triggered lawsuit

    Clinton, Sanders Fight for African American Votes

    Some African American lawmakers lining up to support Clinton in face of perceived surge by Sanders in race for Democratic nomination in presidential campaign

    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.
    NATO to Target Migrant Smugglersi
    X
    Jeff Custer
    February 11, 2016 4:35 PM
    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video US Co-ed Selective Service Plan Stirs Controversy

    Young women may soon be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System, the U.S. government agency charged with implementing a draft in a national emergency. Top Army and Marine Corps commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that women should register, and a bill has been introduced in Congress requiring eligible women to sign up for the military draft. The issue is stirring some controversy, as VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Now that the Ebola epidemic has ended in West Africa, Zika has the world's focus. And, as Carol Pearson reports, health experts and governments are applying some of the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis in Africa to fight the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Illinois Voters Have Mixed Emotions on Obama’s Return to Springfield

    On the ninth anniversary of the launch of his quest for national office, President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, to speak to the Illinois General Assembly, where he once served as state senator. His visit was met with mixed emotions by those with a front-row seat on his journey to the White House. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Heated Immigration Debate Limits Britain’s Refugee Response

    Compared to many other European states, Britain has agreed to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees. Just over a thousand have arrived so far -- and some are being resettled in remote corners of the country. Henry Ridgwell reports on why Britain’s response has lagged behind its neighbors.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Jordanian Theater Group Stages Anti-Terrorism Message

    The lure of the self-styled “Islamic State” has many parents worried about their children who may be susceptible to the organization’s online propaganda. Dozens of Muslim communities in the Middle East are fighting back -- giving young adults alternatives to violence. One group in Jordan is using dramatic expression a send a family message. Mideast Broadcasting Network correspondent Haider Al Abdali shared this report with VOA. It’s narrated by Bronwyn Benito
    Video

    Video Civil Rights Pioneer Remembers Struggle for Voting Rights

    February is Black History Month in the United States. The annual, month-long national observance pays tribute to important people and events that shaped the history of African Americans. VOA's Chris Simkins reports how one man fought against discrimination to help millions of blacks obtain the right to vote
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.