Red Orbit -
ESA astronaut Tim Peake and his Neemo crewmates resurfaced recently after spending 12 days underwater off Florida’s Atlantic coast.
The aquanauts tested equipment and techniques for future space exploration as well as finding time for educational experiments.
Although only 20 m under the Atlantic Ocean, the voyage home took 17 hours. Living underwater requires a long decompression to allow the aquanauts’ bodies to adapt to normal surface pressure.
Being physically cut off from the world above is one of the ways Neemo missions simulate space operations.
All messages between ground control and the aquanauts were delayed by 50 seconds, just as if the aquanauts were far from Earth.
This was one of the first times such a complex mission had to cope with a communication delay.
Tim explains why the mission was a success: “At times, up to 100 people were working at the same time, including 20 divers and submersible pilots.
“It ran beautifully, and was all timed to perfection. In a word: teamwork.” Diving underwater is one of the best ways of simulating weightlessness on Earth.
The aquanauts spent hours on ‘spacewalks’ investigating how humans could explore and retrieve samples from an asteroid as well as testing tools and techniques.
In space, even the simplest tasks need to be thought out in detail.
For example, chipping off a piece of asteroid requires that an astronaut hold on to something, otherwise he would float away into space.