THUNDER BAY – Canadian Space Agency Astronaut David Saint- Jacques has been assigned to his first mission. He will take part in NEEMO 15 (NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations), in which he will test exploration concepts in an undersea environment off the Florida coast. The mission is set to begin October 17.
NEEMO 15 is the first undersea mission to simulate a visit to an asteroid. Challenges relevant to exploring a gravity-weak asteroid will be undertaken, including how to anchor to the surface, how to move around and how best to collect data. Exploration will be coordinated with DeepWorker submersibles and techniques will be evaluated.
“We’ll be simulating spacewalks and working closely with submersibles as if we were on an asteroid,” said Saint-Jacques. “It will involve a lot of planning and team work. By the end of it we should have some crucial takeaways to apply to the exploration of an asteroid.”
NEEMO 15 consists of a multi-disciplinary team that will take part in the13-day mission aboard Aquarius, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) underwater facility.
Joining Saint-Jacques will be NASA astronaut Shannon Walker, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Takuya Onishi, Cornell University Professor
Steven Squyres, and James Talacek and Nate Bender of the University of North Carolina Wilmington. CSA Astronaut Jeremy Hansen will assume the role of CAPCOM on the Florida coast surface for part of the mission.
Saint-Jacques is the fourth Canadian astronaut to be a crew member of a NEEMO mission. Dave Williams participated in NEEMO 1 (2001) and NEEMO 9 (2006), Robert Thirsk took part in NEEMO 7 (2004) and Chris Hadfield served as commander of NEEMO 14 (2010).
The DeepWorker submersibles, one-seater submarines that act as underwater analogues for the Space Exploration Vehicle, were built and developed by Nuytco in British Columbia, Canada.
Background: NEEMO — the NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations project — sends groups of NASA employees and contractors to live in Aquarius for up to three weeks at a time. For NASA, Aquarius provides a convincing analog to space exploration, and NEEMO crewmembers experience some of the same tasks and challenges underwater as they would in space.
Far beneath the waves of the Florida keys, an underwater laboratory called Aquarius provides a safe harbor for scientists to live and work for weeks at a time. Owned by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and managed by the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, Aquarius operates 5.6 kilometers (3.5 miles) off Key Largo in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. It is deployed next to deep coral reefs 62 feet (19 meters) below the surface.
NEEMO missions are designed to test equipment and techniques applicable to space exploration. The crews live aboard Aquarius, venturing from it on simulated spacewalks where they can operate a deployable robotic arm and perform research and drills pertinent to mission objectives.
Aquarius is located 19 meters below the surface, 5.6 kilometres off Key Largo in the Florida Keys.
You can view NEEMO Mission photographs at Aquarius Reef Base.
Here is the latest LiveStream Video from the NEEMO Mission: