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June 25, 2003

Kelly Humphries
Johnson Space Center, Houston
281/483-5111

Jeff Stanford
Orlando Science Center
407/514-2145

NOTE TO EDITORS: #J03-71

First Space Station Science Officer to Lead NASA Undersea Crew

Peggy Whitson, astronaut and the first NASA International Space Station science officer, is commanding the crew of this year’s first NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) mission which began June 16 and will continue through Sunday.

Joining the Expedition 5 crewmember are scientist Emma Hwang and astronauts Clayton Anderson and Garrett Reisman, Ph.D. The quartet will serve as the NASA members of a crew living in the “Aquarius” Underwater Research Facility for 14 days.

The crew is using the undersea habitat as practice for long-duration space habitation, living in a volume similar to that of the habitation module of the ISS, conducting scientific research on the human body and coral reef environment off the coast of Key Largo, Fla., and building undersea structures to simulate space station assembly spacewalk activities.

NEEMO 5, our next-generation mission, goes beyond the bounds of a space analog experience and will attempt to answer several significant scientific questions about long duration isolation in extreme environments,” said Bill Todd, NEEMO project manager at JSC. “We have ratcheted up the isolation factor, complexity and science objectives to a level that closely parallels a space mission experience. And the science we are performing may very well help answer several critical path questions on our road map for journeying to Mars and beyond."

The NEEMO missions are a cooperative project of NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Undersea Research Center (NURC) and the University of North Carolina at Wilmington (UNCW). They use Aquarius, the only undersea research laboratory in the world, which is owned by NOAA and managed by UNCW. 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 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. This mission also will be supported by JSC's Exploration Planning and Operations Center (ExPOC) control room, simulating the interactions between astronauts and control rooms on spaceflights.

In addition to research and construction, the NEEMO crew will participate in six educational "point-to-point" videoconferences and a web chat while in its underwater habitat. The first event will be the web chat, a cooperative effort of JSC's Distance Learning Outpost (DLO) and NASA Ames Research Center's Quest project at 2:30 p.m. EDT June 19. For more information on the web chat and how to participate, visit:

http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/projects/space/aquarius/2003/june.html

Approximately 100 Kindergarten through sixth grade students participating in summer science camps at the Orlando Science Center will be able to see live television pictures and talk with the crewmembers via JSC's DLO videoconferencing system at 1:45 p.m. EDT June 27 in OSC’s Darden Adventure Theater. They will have completed a construction task similar to the one the crew will have constructed underwater. The task is designed to simulate the communication skills and construction techniques that are needed by the 16 participating countries as they work together to build the ISS and is a way to capture students' attention while teaching them science or technology concepts in the context of real research. During the construction process, students will acquire and employ decision-making skills and collaborative skills while applying principles of science and technology. In the end, they will have a better understanding of the creativity and the engineering challenges required to build the ISS, and they will share these experiences while talking live with the Aquanauts and learning about life underwater. The video teleconference will also be open to the general public. Summer camp students from The Museum of Flight in Seattle, WA will be participating as well.

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

http://education.jsc.nasa.gov

For additional information about the NEEMO project, visit the NASA Human Spaceflight Web at:

http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/

For more information about Aquarius, visit:

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

For more information about this opportunity and to arrange media visits, contact Jeff Stanford, PR & Communications Manager, Orlando Science Center, at (407) 514-2145.
 

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