HOUSTON, TEXAS (BNO NEWS) -- An international team of aquanauts submerged to the ocean floor off the East Coast of the United States on Monday to begin a 12-day mission, preparing for a potential asteroid mission in the future, officials said.
The NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) launched the mission off the coast of Key Largo, Florida, at 11:04 a.m. EDT on Monday in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Aquarius Reef Base undersea research habitat. The four-man crew is scheduled to remain on the ocean floor for 12 days, testing concepts for a potential asteroid mission.
NASA said the expedition, NEEMO's 16th excursion, 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 NEEMO 16 mission crew consists of Commander Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger of NASA; European Space Agency 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, who was also a member of NEEMO 15.
NEEMO sends groups of astronauts, engineers and scientists to live in the Aquarius lab, 63 feet (19 meters) 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.
NASA's Orion spacecraft and the Space Launch System rocket, which are currently in development following the end of the space shuttle program, will allow astronauts to begin exploring beyond the boundaries of Earth's orbit. The first human mission to an asteroid is planned for 2025.
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