Where on Earth could you really prepare for the challenges of space? As it turns out, it’s right in our back yard. NEEMO (NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations project) sends NASA employees to live in Aquarius – an underwater laboratory right off the Florida Keys, to prepare for space travel. Aquarius is located 3.5 miles off Key Largo, and 62 feet under the surface of the water, and NEEMO crewmembers live there for up to 3 weeks at a time. NEEMO missions include astronaut training and testing equipment required for exploring asteroids.
Now use your imagination. Think about trying to accomplish a task that would be pretty simple on land. Shoveling sand. Inserting a screw into machinery. Holding still. Picking up a rock. Breathing. Now imagine doing those tasks underwater (or in space). All these things that we take for granted in our every day lives become much more difficult in space, and trying it out underwater is great practice.
On Saturday October 22nd, 85 participants attended an event that featured a live webcast with NEEMO crew, in which they learned about NEEMO missions first hand. Participants included 16 teachers who were attending a professional development training for APEX (After-School Program Exploring Science), and 69 high school students (11 students from the Digital WAVE: Warming Winds and Water program, and 58 students from the Upward Bound Math & Science program). During the Q&A with NEEMO crew, participants asked about the challenges of asteroid exploration, and how astronauts train for it. During the daylong event, students also participated in activities stationed throughout the Museum related to asteroid composition, gravity and buoyancy, and projectile motion. And of course, what day would be complete without being able to make and analyze your own impact craters?