(Mirror Daily, United States) – NASA astronauts are now training for a future Mars mission in an environment that matches accurately the conditions on the Red Planet: the 62-ft-below-surface Aquarius Reef Base in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
Astronauts started the NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) July 21 and are expected to continue for ten more days. The mission is specially designed to help human crews and the space agency see the level of their skill for an incoming manned Mars mission.
NASA scientists explained that the Aquarius Reef Base displays all the features of a microgravity environment. So, astronauts now will be able to gain a first-hand experience on how it is to work and live on the desert planet.
So far, the aquanauts were able to tests a DNA sequencer on the ocean floor as some pictures shared by astronaut Reid Wiseman show. NASA said that the crew is now facing the same challenges they would in low-gravity conditions on the Moon, Mars or asteroids.
The DNA tool dubbed Minion can analyze bacteria and monitor the health of astronauts. Bill Todd, senior NEEMO mission investigator, said that the crew will be able to perform complex science tasks directly on the seafloor.
Todd added that the scientific instruments are tweaked to mimic a Mars exploration mission. The current mission involves two NASA astronauts, one ESA astronaut, and three other crew members form three separate agencies.
Reportedly, the team’s initial goal is to build a coral nursery to see how skilled they are in constructing things in low-gravity conditions. But they will also be able to simulate spacewalks and pilot submerged vehicles.
During the staged “spacewalks” the crew will collect rock and organic samples, they’ll help environmentalists restore corals and tests communications delays, which are expected to happen on Mars as well.
The DNA sequencer is currently being tested on the International Space Station (ISS) too by NASA astronaut Kate Rubins.
Still, the new simulations will help astronauts prepare not only for a mission to the Red Planet but also for other deep space trips.
The European Space Agency (ESA) announced that the aquanauts are expected to test another scientific tool called the mobiPV. The instrument which will be worn by astronauts enables researchers to receive hands-free AVI input that can help them in their scientific endeavors.
Astronauts will also try out the AquaPad which can conveniently filter water through a membrane that mimics nature’s work.
Image Source: Wikimedia