October 20 to 26, 2011
The NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations project, known as NEEMO, sends groups of astronauts, engineers, doctors and professional divers to live in an underwater habitat for up to three weeks at a time. These crew members, called aquanauts, live in Aquarius, the world's only undersea laboratory, located about 19 metres below the surface, 5.6 km off Key Largo in the Florida Keys.
Canadian Space Agency Astronaut David Saint-Jacques is a crew member of NEEMO 15, the first undersea mission to simulate a visit to an asteroid. For part of the mission, he is supported by his colleague CSA Astronaut Jeremy Hansen who, as CAPCOM, provides information and directions from the Key Largo surface to the NEEMO 15 team.
The undersea environment is the closest analogue on Earth to a gravity-weak asteroid, making it the best place to test relevant exploration concepts. During NEEMO 15 the crew evaluates different strategies for anchoring themselves to its surface, traveling along its terrain and collecting data. They also coordinate their efforts with DeepWorker submersibles, one-seater submarines built and developed by Nuytco in British Columbia, Canada.