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May 14, 2002

John Bluck

NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.

Phone: 650/604-5026 or 604-9000

jbluck@mail.arc.nasa.gov



RELEASE 02-59AR

UNDERWATER ‘WEBCASTS’ WITH ASTRONAUTS TO TAKE PLACE MAY 15

From beneath the coastal waters of the Florida Keys, astronauts within the Aquarius undersea habitat will conduct a one-hour, live Internet ‘Webcast’ on May 15 beginning at 9 a.m. PDT (noon EDT). Webcasts enable viewers to watch live video, listen to audio and interact in real time on the Internet with experts.

Three astronauts and a NASA astronaut training specialist in Aquarius will take part in 'Living in Extreme Environments,' a live Internet program produced by NASA Quest that presents the undersea environment as an analog to space travel. NASA is interested in finding out whether Aquarius could help the agency understand and prepare for long-term space travel. The team is conducting a 9-day mission in Aquarius.

"I have visited numerous underwater habitats and submersibles, and am interested in the parallels between living and working in inner and outer space," said project manager Bill Todd, who is a simulation supervisor at NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston. "I hope to develop a program for NASA that utilizes the Aquarius as a research facility for space missions such as long-term space habitation."

Astronauts who are Aquarius crew members slated to take part in the webcast include Mike Fincke, Sunita Williams and Daniel Tani, as well as astronaut training specialist Marc Reagan. Living underwater parallels living in space in many ways. The time frame for missions involves long periods away from normal environments and families. Communication with others is not always immediate. In both space and under the sea, one cannot readily go home or ask for help whenever necessary.

During the Webcast, the astronauts will answer questions live about their adventures in space and in the underwater habitat (and how they compare). Members of the public who wish to monitor the program can access the event through the Internet at:

http://quest.nasa.gov/projects/space/aquarius/2002/index.html

"Both formal and informal education programs are very important to NASA," said Ames education director Donald James. As NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe stated recently, education is a core component of NASA's mission, James added. Engaging students and inspiring the next generation of explorers is an important NASA priority, according to O'Keefe.

"What a great opportunity for students to see real-time what is going on at a unique location or facility, and ask the experts direct questions through the chat room -- watching and hearing their questions answered over a live link on their computer screens," said Susan Anderson, distance learning manager at NASA Johnson Space Center.

"Each Webcast is designed to engage the classroom in science and mathematics, including lesson plans and curricula developed by NASA," said Linda Conrad of the NASA Quest program at NASA Ames Research Center in the heart of California's Silicon Valley.

Internet audience members can participate in the NASA-sponsored Internet events without pre-registering.

"This is part of an on-going series of Internet Webcasts and other activities that are providing students and people from all over the world with first-hand contact with NASA women and men," Conrad said.

Aquarius is 60 feet below the surface of the water and is three and a half miles from shore. The facility is owned by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and is operated by the National Undersea Research Center at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.

More information about Aquarius is on the World Wide Web at:

http://www.uncwil.edu/nurc/aquarius/

For additional information about NASA Quest programs on the World Wide Web, please telephone Linda Conrad at 650/604-1519.

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