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Astronaut Tim Peake gets his feet wet.

18 Apr 2012

An Aquanaut conducts an underwater experiment on a previous NEEMO Mission.

ESA astronaut, Timothy Peake, will dive to the bottom of the sea to learn more about exploring space. A permanent underwater base almost 20 m below the waves off the coast of Florida will be Tim’s home for more than a week.

An Aquanaut conducts an underwater experiment on a previous NEEMO mission.
Credit: NASA JSC.

The NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations, or NEEMO, allows space agencies to test technologies and research international crew behaviour for long-duration missions.

Astronauts get a feeling of how it is to work and live in space, learning to cope as individuals and as a team to stressful situations.

During their 10-day stay in the underwater base, the aquanauts will conduct ‘waterwalks’ to perform repairs simulating real spacewalks.

They will have to solve problems on their own. Even in an emergency, they will not be able to come up to the surface immediately.

Spending only a few hours deep underwater requires a safety stop and decompression before coming back up. There is no quick emergency exit from the NEEMO base. 

NEEMO is the best space exploration analogue used in official astronaut training, followed tightly by ESA’s cave training programme,” says astronaut trainer Loredana Bessone from the European Astronaut Centre.

"When I dived down to the underwater habitat, it looked exactly how I imagine a lunar base will look like.
“Aquanauts were ‘floating’ around in slow motion, performing repairs and mounting equipment. I could not take my eyes off the scene.”

Tim’s training starts on 11 June and will centre on exploring asteroids – communication delays, anchoring to the surface and crew size. Training astronauts for space requires remote and inhospitable places to test their reactions to stress and their ability to work in an international team. ESA and international partners also send astronauts underground in Sardinia in Italy for cave training.

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