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NASA takes to the sea to test new space tools

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What's the best way to simulate the conditions of outer space here on Earth? Go to the bottom of the ocean, of course. NASA has actually been sending astronauts to an underwater habitat for years under the NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) program, and the 20th expedition is slated to begin soon. On July 20th, a team of NASA, ESA (Europe) and JAXA (Japan) astronauts will start testing new tools and techniques for future spacewalks to get them used to different surfaces and gravity levels on asteroids, the moon and Mars.

They will also test new hardware sponsored by the ESA, which allows the astronauts to read instructions on the next page of digital manuals without taking their eyes and hands off their tasks. Plus, the mission gives NASA the opportunity to test communication delays, seeing as the locations it wants to visit are much farther than the ISS. If you're wondering, the team is spending 14 days in an undersea habitat called the Aquarius laboratory, which is submerged 62-feet below the surface a few miles away from Key Largo. It's been NEEMO's home since 2001, and it will most likely host more teams as our space agencies prepare for manned missions to places beyond the Low Earth Orbit.

[Image credit: NASA]

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