Researcher Sylvia Earle looks out from a porthole on Aquarius, the undersea research laboratory in the Florida Keys. Aquarius is part of NOAA's National Undersea Research Program.
MIAMI - Astronaut training has resumed at an undersea laboratory in the Florida Keys.
Tuesday, five astronauts began spending five days living and working at
the Aquarius Reef Base. While they're underwater, they'll be trying out
an exercise device that could be used on the International Space
Station and spacewalking tools.
They also will evaluate protocols for communications and for working with a remotely operated vehicle, according to NASA.
staying at Aquarius are called "aquanauts," and since 2001 their ranks
have included astronauts training for space missions.
Astronauts last trained at Aquarius in June 2012 on a mission that simulated a visit to an asteroid.
seemed like the final astronaut training mission because Aquarius had
been set to close by the end of last year after losing its federal
funding to budget cuts.
This week's mission is the first at Aquarius since Florida International University took over its operations in January.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration owns the pressurized
lab that sits about 60 feet below the ocean's surface a few miles off
43-foot-long metal tube - it looks like a yellow mobile home encrusted
with coral - allows scientists to live and work underwater for days at a
time without coming up for air.
more than two decades, marine scientists have used the lab as a base to
study changes in a coral reef and the populations of sea creatures that
call it home.
base allows researchers to scuba dive up to nine continuous hours a day
without needing to return to the surface or decompress.
NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations training missions were held
at Aquarius. NASA officials say the watery environment is similar to a
low earth orbit and helps astronauts field-test their skills for space
allows astronauts to physically experience life in tight quarters and
potentially hostile environments, said Tom Potts, the lab's director.
"The nice thing about Aquarius is that you don't have to simulate the danger," he said.
"The danger is real if you don't follow certain protocols."
The 400-square-foot lab accomodates six people and includes bunks and a small kitchen space.
crew for this week's mission, dubbed "SEA TEST," includes NASA
astronauts Joe Acaba and Kate Rubins, Soichi Noguchi of the Japan
Aeorspace Exploration Agency, and Andreas Mogensen and Thomas Pesquet of
the European Space Agency.
The lab's next resident will be Fabien Cousteau, the grandson of ocean exploration pioneer Jacques Cousteau.
a team of filmmakers and scientists, Fabien plans to dive to Aquarius
in November and spend 31 days doing research on the underwater effects
of climate change, and on the physiological and psychological effects of
prolonged confinement and long-term saturation diving.