NASA has been using underwater training environments to simulate “spacewalking” for some time, but in this case the aquatic work will include a 10-minute delay in communications to simulate future deep space missions where speaking with Mission Control could take minutes rather than the seconds it presently takes from the International Space Station.

nasa Underwater Tank

The NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) 18 mission began on Monday and will see four astronauts (aquamen?) doing a spacewalk circuit with two crew members circling the underwater structure and looking to return in ten minutes time.

NASA’s Asteroid mission

The idea behind the communications lag is when astronauts are forced to land on an asteroid, in order to save the earth(?). While it may sound like a bad Bruce Willis movie, NASA plans to robotically pull an asteroid into a lunar orbit sometime in the the mid-2020’s and then land astronauts on said astronaut.

“We’ll be testing out those tools if we did go to an asteroid,” said Jeanette Epps, a NASA astronaut who is part of the NEEMO 18 crew.

Those comments from Epps came from 62 feet (19 meters) underwater in the Aquarius lab off the coast of Key Largo, Florida while speaking to the press.

Epps spoke to members of the press  NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei, Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet are also living and working in the lab.

“Thomas and I were supposed to spend the entire time doing experiments, while Aki and Jeannette were doing the spacewalk, but because of the communications problems, I had to abort my science,” said “spacewalker” Vande Hei. “Thomas went ahead and did them all, which was great, and I focused on the spacewalks”

International cooperation

He went on to downplay a rift between the United States and Russia with regards to cooperation.

“I hope the future holds a lot of cooperation,” Vande Hei said. “The fact we have an international program to explore space has helped us keep the program going between administrators, and regardless of what is going on politically.”