This summer, we are exploring how we push human extremes in order to survive and thrive in the harsh environments of space. NASA takes advantage of Earth’s most extreme environments to prepare astronauts for life in zero gravity. One example is NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) expeditions where crews spent 10 days in the Aquarius Laboratory 62 feet below the ocean surface.
When one thinks of astronaut training, the Florida Keys are not likely to come to mind. However, below the tropical waters 3.5 miles off Key Largo, sits an underwater habitat that has prepared countless astronauts for life in space.
The Aquarius Laboratory is operated by Florida International University (FIU) and is in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. According to NASA, it is the world’s only undersea research station.
It has brought together astronauts, engineers, and scientists from all over the world to work side by side underwater. Crew members, known as aquanauts, can live underwater for up to three weeks at a time through a specialized diving technique called saturation diving.
Aquanauts encounter similar challenges to those they would face in the extreme environment of space. Over the years, the NEEMO analog has prepared many astronauts for living and working in a spacecraft, and has allowed aquanauts to test the latest technologies that will assist human exploration of the Moon, Mars, and beyond.