NASA’s Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) 18 mission will conduct underwater tests to prepare astronauts for the future asteroid landing. It’s a common practice among astronauts to practice spacewalks underwater. But the U.S. space agency is conducting the aquatic excursions with a new twist. When you are in the space, your message takes a few minutes before it reaches the Mission Control on the Earth.

NASA Underwater lab

NASA plans to send astronauts to an asteroid by 2025

So, NASA will create a 10-minute delay in communications with the Mission Control, simulating what it would be like to speak with people on Earth from deep space. Scientists performing underwater spacewalks will have to pretend that they are on an asteroid. The crew members will be conducting a spacewalk during the 10-minute communication delay. By that time, the Mission Control would give them instructions on the spots to sample, reports Elizabeth Howell of Space.com.

Jeanette Epps, an astronaut who is part of NASA’s NEEMO 18 crew, said they would be testing out the tools that they might have to use if they did go to an asteroid. The space agency aims to send humans to an asteroid by 2025. Epps spoke to media from about 20 meters underwater in the Aquarius lab, about three miles off the coast of Key Largo, Florida.

Similarities between NASA’s Aquarius lab and actual space conditions

 

Though it’s a simulation, scientists have sometimes experienced malfunctions. NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei said that, earlier in the mission, communication problems between the Mission Control and the spacewalkers affected operations. There are many similarities between the confined environment of the Aquarius lab and the actual space conditions. Astronauts will have to live together in close quarters, balance maintenance talks with science tasks and have the time tightly scheduled.

The crew is made up of six people. Two of them have the responsibility to maintain the underwater lab, and keep things in working order, including the suits of astronauts. The other four are NASA astronauts.