Preparation for the next trip to the moon is currently in full swing. If you didn’t know already, NASA is currently making plans to head back to our lunar neighbor in 2024.
Taking place over the next couple of weeks the well regarded European Space Agency astronaut, Thomas Pesquet, Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai, and NASA astronaut Drew Feustel will be testing out a host of new technology, tools, and techniques as part of the new NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations expedition.
— Thomas Pesquet (@Thom_astro) August 20, 2019
Also known as NEEMO, the mission taking place off the coast of California, has garnered attention not just because of its intended impressive feats but because of some of the images of the technology surfacing around the web and of course, the Internet has responded in full force.
Undersea training for our mission to the moon
Why even go underwater in the first place? Extreme environments offer space agencies and astronauts opportunities to simulate different aspects of space while testing out new technology, as mentioned above.
— Thomas Pesquet (@Thom_astro) August 19, 2019
Previous European Space Agency Missions have taken place in Italian caves, off the coast of Florida and on the Canary Islands.
— Thomas Pesquet (@Thom_astro) August 22, 2019
As for the NEEMO Californian expedition, this mission involves astronauts or, aquanauts testing various submersibles and underwater suits – some have garnered the attention of the Internet as they look like something out of a 1950’s comic.
— A L E X (@alouxe01) August 22, 2019
One notable image that has been floating around this underwater mission includes the exo-suit being used for the project that looks like something directly out of Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, or an old comic book artist’s rendition of a robot. This 300 kg armor is able to project Thomas Pesquet from a few dozen meters of water.
Design of the suit by Hergé 😅
— 🐞Thomas Astruc🐞 (@Thomas_Astruc) August 22, 2019
Though, the ESA has half-jokingly described the process of putting on the suit as a little tedious and claustrophobic.
Taking it to the extreme
As stated by Hervé Stevenin, “NASA NEEMO will be focusing on the operational aspects of piloting a subsea rover and a single person, “exosuit” to conduct exploration traverses.”
Exploration on earth to prepare us for exploration in space. @NASA_NEEMO NXT project working underwater to explore the tools, tasks, techniques and training. @NASA_Astronauts @NASA pic.twitter.com/6PWZljrtJx
— A.J. (Drew) Feustel (@Astro_Feustel) August 18, 2019
The Californian underwater world has some features comparable to the moon, placing the team under tremendous pressure (both literal and metaphorically), as well as prepare them for the unexpected challenges that occur in fieldwork.
As described by Pesquet in his discussion with the ESA, “With these analog missions everything is made to be as realistic as possible without leaving Earth, so we will be as busy as astronauts on the Space Station, using similar operational techniques with mission control, briefings and procedures.”
But, we have to admit that the exosuit looks a little odd, but in the best possible way.