Comic Con and NASA and Sea Labs, Oh My!
So, everyone has been talking about ComicCon since it opened this weekend. The cosplay, the nuggets of movie and comic information, the experiences…there’s SO much to talk about and look forward to. Except Star Wars Episode VII. Sadly, yet again, we fans get nothin’. So I decided that since my love of all things space related began with watching Star Wars and Star Trek as a kid, I would fill that void with real life space info courtesy of NASA. Now, I briefly mentioned last week that NASA is about to start testing part of their Space Launch System rocket at the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi (which, by the way, if you haven’t been, go; it’s awesome). But as cool as those rockets are, they are only one part of space exploration, and the part my little 5 year old self dreamed about was being an astronaut visiting a galaxy far, far away. While most of us can only imagine what it would be like to live in a 'Zero G' environment, actual astronauts need to know what it’s like. So the geniuses at NASA created NEEMO, the NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations project.
It’s essentially a training program designed to allow astronauts to conduct field tests in the types of extreme environments they would encounter in space by sending them to live in a research lab under the sea (did you just start humming the theme from SeaLab 2021 too, or was that just me?). Aquarius is the only lab of its kind, is located 62 feet below the surface in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, and is currently the home of four ‘aquanauts’, as NASA calls them. This past Monday, the NEEMO 18 crew dove down to their watery home for the next 9 days where they will test their spacewalk techniques, and practice performing tasks in a harsh environment not unlike that of space.
(Aquanauts using a Core Drill to practice drilling into another planetary surface)
As a bonus, NASA technicians can simulate varying levels of gravitational pull by simply weighing down the aquanauts as they go about their tasks, because the goal of these training exercises is to prepare astronauts for exploratory missions to asteroids, the Moon, Mars, and one day that galaxy far, far away. So, while we’re pouring over all the sci-fi announcements coming out of ComicCon this weekend (myself included) let us not forget that there are real life astronauts training right now to bring us one small step and one giant leap closer to making that fiction a reality.
For up to date info about the NEEMO project and what the crew is up to, check out their Facebook page, here!
Here is an interview with NASA Astronaut / NEEMO Aquanaut Mark Vande Hei, currently living in Aquarius: