Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Rina cuts short underwater NEEMO mission

NASA today called an early end to an undersea astronaut expedition off the Florida coast due to concerns about the path of Hurricane Rina, a Category 1 storm now off the Yucatan Peninsula.

After another storm delayed its start, a planned 13-day mission at an Atlantic Ocean base near Key Largo ended after only five days.

The 15th mission of NASA's NEEMO program -- short for NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations -- was the first to simulate work on an asteroid in deep space.

"Despite the length, we accomplished a significant amount of research," NEEMO Project Manager Bill Todd said in a statement. "We're already learning lessons from working in this environment."

The six-person NEEMO crew led by NASA astronaut Shannon Walker left the Aquarius Undersea Laboratory this morning after conducting six underwater "spacewalks," research in Aquarius and operations involving submersible vehicles.

A NEEMO 16 mission has been tentatively scheduled for next summer.

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