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Off the Florida Coast, Astronauts Train For Asteroid Mission 84

Posted by timothy
from the in-space-no-one-can-hear-you-access-facebook dept.
Space.com gives an overview of the training that four astronauts are undergoing over 9 days submerged off the coast of Florida near Key Largo. The training mission, dubbed NEEMO 18, is one step toward a proposed (mid-2020s) mission to actually visit a captured asteroid in lunar orbit. In addition to the complications of working outside their school-bus sized habitat while awkwardly suited up in a low-gravity (or at least high buoyancy) environment, their mission also includes a 10-minute communications delay, to simulate the high-latency communications with mission control that would be inevitable for an actual asteroid mission. The experiments astronauts are doing during the mission, which began Monday (July 21), range from the physical to the behavioral. For example, each of the crew members sports a sensor that records how close the crew members work with each other inside the school-bus-size habitat. ... Communications with NEEMO Mission Control is usually constant, and there is the ability to send items to and from the habitat as needed. Also living inside the habitat are two support staff who are assisting with Aquarius maintenance and systems, as required. The crew members also have Internet and phone service to talk with family and friends.
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Off the Florida Coast, Astronauts Train For Asteroid Mission

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  • Send a robot (Score:4, Informative)

    by Animats (122034) on Sunday July 27, 2014 @07:14PM (#47546255) Homepage

    When it's time for an asteroid mission, it will probably be robotic.

    It's amazing how much money NASA can spend not going into space.

  • Re:Send a robot (Score:2, Informative)

    by FatLittleMonkey (1341387) on Sunday July 27, 2014 @09:40PM (#47546967)

    When it's time for an asteroid mission, it will probably be robotic.

    ARM is primarily a robotic sample-return mission. The intent is to send a robotic system to intercept and literally bag a small, 5-7m, NEO asteroid, then using ion drive bring it almost all the way back to Earth.

    Only the actual sampling will be performed by humans, through slits in the bag with a pick'n'reach tool. Hence in order to create a destination for SLS/Orion that is within the system's incredibly limited capability, the asteroid will be returned to the highest orbit that the SLS/Orion system can reach (lunar orbit) in order to pretend the $30+ billion that will have been spent on SLS/Orion development by then has somehow all been worth it.

    It's a bit like sending out a 19th century whaling crew to catch and tow an iceberg back to New York, so that an alternative retarded version of Adm Peary could stomp around on it, waving a toy ice axe, shouting, "I are exploring, derp!" while setting fire to piles of money to keep warm.

    The robotic part is a useful mission, IMO. The human part is of course not only a waste, but a waste intended to justify a greater waste. Spending even part of the remaining $20 billion SLS/Orion development on a series of entirely robotic asteroid and comet sample return missions would vastly outweigh the returns from the single ARM human mission.

    Aside,

    "is one step toward a proposed (mid-2020s) mission to actually visit a captured asteroid in lunar orbit. [...] their mission also includes a 10-minute communications delay, to simulate the high-latency communications with mission control that would be inevitable for an actual asteroid mission."

    The moon is 1 1/3 light-seconds away. Hence a 2 2/3 second round-trip delay. Say 3 seconds with relaying. SLS/Orion isn't capable of reaching 5 light-minutes away from Earth. Derp.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 28, 2014 @12:17PM (#47550621)

    I worked at the Saturation Diving Facility (Aquarius) during a handful of NEEMO missions, and noted that in addition to the 'stated' mission plan here, NEEMO missions carry a great deal additional impact.

    Every Astronaut that did a stint at the ISS /after/ a NEEMO mission has described it as the closest analog to the station possible on the planet - the environment is hostile, the conditions and plans are in upheaval, and mission plans are designed to shake down astronaut candidates. Scott Carpenter was a participant in the SeaLab project - the world's first large scale scientific saturation diving project in Panama City in the early 60's, and attested loudly that living under the sea was by far more difficult than living in space. And, the depths they were at, help was a /long/ way away..

    Outreach is also a big objective. Astronaut candidates spend a lot of time doing telepresence with elementary schools, colleges, etc. One remarkable one I was around for was a threeway between the guys up in the space station, the team in Aquarius, and various elementary schools. We kept the connection up to let the ISS guys drive some ROVs on the seafloor over ip, which was fun and resulted in some superb procedure refinements for Aquarius and for the ISS.

    Living in Aquarius is challenging. Getting materials from home takes a few hours - and there's siginificant limitations to what can be brought down 'dry'. Getting the team to the surface takes 17 hours of decompression in the event of an incident - so the team has tremendous pressure to 'fix it yourself'. The facility is small, loud, uncomfortable, crowded, and needs continuous adjustment to maintain life support. The vistas are breathtaking, and the work intense. The reality of these matters carry a massive impact to the psychology of the candidates infinitely more than putting them in a big can down the hall in the surface. ;]

    And, running Aquarius is cheap compared to other aspects of Astronaut candidate training and other research! When I worked there, it was around $15k day.

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