Students at a Pasadena, Texas, elementary school will have a chance to
see and talk with NASA ‘aquanauts’ practicing for space living 20 meters
(65 feet) below the surface of the Atlantic near Key Largo, Fla., on May

The educational opportunity is associated with the NASA Extreme
Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) project in which four ‘aquanauts’
will live in the ‘Aquarius’ Underwater Research Facility for three
separate nine-day missions this summer and fall. The objective is to
test the concept of using undersea habitats as practice facilities for
long-duration space habitation.

The students, who attend Pearl Hall Elementary School in Pasadena —
which is near the home base for the team of underwater researchers from
NASA’s Johnson Space Center — will be able to see television pictures
and talk with the crew members via JSC’s Distance Learning Outpost
videoconferencing system. The aquanauts will also share their experience
with participants from the Orlando Science Center in Orlando, Fla., and
the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City, N.J. Such ‘point-to-point’
conferences enable viewers to interact in real-time with experts.

‘Living underwater parallels living in space in many ways,’ said Bill
Todd, NEEMO project manager at JSC. ‘The time frame for missions
involves long periods of time away from NEEMO will be used to develop operations concepts, conduct experiments,
perform space-analog tasks and sharpen team and interpersonal skills.
JSC personnel will work together with the National Undersea Research
Center (NURC) to accomplish these missions in May, July and September.

Aquarius ‘aquanauts’ will explore and investigate an alien environment
hostile to human habitation. Aquarius, the only undersea research
laboratory in the world, is owned by the National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and managed by the University of North
Carolina at Wilmington. The 14-meter-long (45 feet) by 4-meter-diameter
(13 feet) underwater home and laboratory operates 4.5 kilometers (3
miles) off Key Largo in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
Similar in size to the International Space Station’s Zvezda Service
Module, it is situated next to deep coral reefs and provides life
support systems that allow scientists to live and work in reasonably
comfortable quarters.

The facility is supported by a 10-meter life support buoy on the surface
which provides power, life support and communication requirements. There
is also a shore-based ‘mission control’ which supports all Aquarius
missions with 24-hour mission monitoring.

Additional point-to-point educational opportunities are being organized
for the July and September NEEMO missions by the Distance Learning
Outpost. Details about those interactive events will be available later.

“What a great opportunity for students to see real time what is going on
in a unique facility at a remote location, ask the experts direct
questions, and then watch the aquanauts provide answers over the DLO
live link,” said Susan Anderson, distance learning manager at NASA
Johnson Space Center.

For more information about the Distance Learning Outpost and other JSC
educational programs, visit: