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Melissa Motichek
Headquarters, Washington
(Phone: 202/358-1272)

Kelly Humphries
Johnson Space Center, Houston
(Phone: 281/483-5111)

Jana Goldman
National Oceanographic & Atmospheric Administration
(Phone: 301/713-2483)

June 16, 2003
 
RELEASE : 03-198
 
 
NASA Space Veteran Leads Undersea Crew
 
 
For the first time, an astronaut with months of experience in space will compare that time to life underwater. Peggy Whitson, an International Space Station veteran, is commanding a NASA crew spending two weeks living on the ocean floor.

Whitson, who called the Space Station home for six months last year, is joined by astronauts Clay Anderson and Garret Reisman and scientist Emma Hwang for a NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) mission June 16-29. The quartet will serve as the NASA members of a crew living in the Aquarius Underwater Research Facility off the coast of Key Largo, Fla. in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

"NEEMO 5, our next-generation mission, goes beyond the bounds of 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 the Johnson Space Center (JSC), Houston. "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," Todd said.

NEEMO missions are a cooperative project of NASA, the National Oceanographic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Undersea Research Center, and the University of North Carolina at Wilmington (UNC-W).

Aquarius, the only undersea research laboratory in the world, owned by NOAA and managed by UNC-W, is similar in size to the Space Station's living quarters, the Zvezda Service Module. The crew will use the undersea habitat as practice for long-duration space habitation and to build undersea structures simulating Space Station assembly activities. They will also conduct scientific research on the human body and coral reef environments. The 45-foot long by 13-foot diameter underwater laboratory operates three miles off Key Largo. It sits on the ocean floor, about 62 feet beneath the surface, near deep coral reefs.

A surface life support buoy provides Aquarius with power, air, and communications, allowing scientists to live and work in reasonably comfortable quarters, and a shore-based "mission control" in Florida and a control room at JSC monitor crew activities.

The aquanauts plan to discuss their mission with the crew of the International Space Station, Commander Yuri Malenchenko and NASA Station Science Officer Ed Lu, during a ship-to-ship linkup tentatively planned for 12:25 p.m. EDT on June 25.

An opportunity for media to interview the crew of NEEMO 5 is available from 6:30 to 7:30 a.m. EDT, June 25. A second opportunity is available June 26 from 3 to 4 p.m. EDT. Media interested in conducting audio or video interviews with the crew should contact the JSC Newsroom at: 281/483-5111 no later than noon EDT, Tuesday, June 24.

The NEEMO 5 crew will also participate in six educational "point-to-point" videoconferences and a Web chat during the mission. Students in Titonka, Iowa; Jersey City, N.J.; Omaha, Neb.; Nashville, Tenn.; Charlotte, N.C.; Honolulu; Milford, Mass.; Austin, Texas; and Seattle will participate in various educational events. The Web chat, a cooperative effort of JSC's Distance Learning Outpost and NASA's Ames Research Center Quest project, is at 2:30 p.m. EDT, June 19. Information about the Web chat is available on the Internet, at:

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

For information about NASA on the Internet, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov

For information about the NEEMO project on the Internet, visit:

http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/shuttle/support/training/neemo/neemo5.html

For information about Aquarius on the Internet, visit:

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

 

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