Canadian Space Agency Astronaut David Saint-Jacques to Participate in NASA Undersea Mission
Longueuil, Quebec, September 15, 2011 –Canadian Space Agency (CSA) Astronaut David Saint-Jacques has been assigned to his first mission. He will take part in NEEMO 15 (NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations), in which he will test exploration concepts in an undersea environment off the Florida coast. The mission is set to begin October 17.
NEEMO 15 is the first undersea mission to simulate a visit to an asteroid. Challenges relevant to exploring a gravity-weak asteroid will be undertaken, including how to anchor to the surface, how to move around and how best to collect data. Exploration will be coordinated with "DeepWorker" submersibles and techniques will be evaluated.
"We'll be simulating spacewalks and working closely with submersibles as if we were on an asteroid," said Saint-Jacques. "It will involve a lot of planning and team work. By the end of it we should have some crucial takeaways to apply to the exploration of an asteroid."
NEEMO 15 consists of a multi-disciplinary team that will take part in the 13-day mission aboard Aquarius, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) underwater facility.
Joining David Saint-Jacques will be NASA astronaut Shannon Walker, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Takuya Onishi, Cornell University Professor Steven Squyres, and James Talacek and Nate Bender of the University of North Carolina Wilmington. CSA Astronaut Jeremy Hansen will assume the role of CAPCOM on the Florida coast surface for part of the mission.
David is the fourth Canadian astronaut to be a crew member of a NEEMO mission. Dave Williams participated in NEEMO 1 (2001) and NEEMO 9 (2006), Robert Thirsk took part in NEEMO 7 (2004) and Chris Hadfield served as commander of NEEMO 14 (2010).
The "DeepWorker" submersibles, one-seater submarines that act as underwater analogues for the Space Exploration Vehicle, were built and developed by Nuytco in British Columbia, Canada.
NEEMO missions are designed to test equipment and techniques applicable to space exploration. The crews live aboard Aquarius, venturing from it on simulated spacewalks where they can operate a deployable robotic arm and perform research and drills pertinent to mission objectives.
Aquarius is located 19 metres below the surface, 5.6 kilometres off Key Largo in the Florida Keys.
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