NASA’s Undersea Mission To Simulate Life On Mars

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Washington: NASA is sending a team of four crew members to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, which will spend 10 days simulating a deep space mission with similar objectives to exploration on Mars. Living and working at the bottom of the ocean mimics the micro-gravity (or harsh) environment that humans will experience in space, researchers at the University of South Florida (USF) in the US said.

The crew will conduct simulated spacewalks, test time delays in communication, evaluate a variety of tools and procedures to be used in future space missions, they said. The NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) 22 expedition will begin on June 18 when the crew will splash down to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

Dominic D’Agostino, Associate Professor at the University of South Florida is one of the four crew members selected for the NEEMO 22 mission. D’Agostino was selected for his research conducted on how extreme environments impact the human body. One of the counter-measures developed is a method to induce and sustain nutritional ketosis with ketone supplement formulations.Nutritional ketosis shifts the body’s metabolic state to burn fat rather than glucose as its primary fuel.

The USF-patented method will play a pivotal role in advancing the objectives of the NEEMO 22 mission, researchers said.D’Agostino will be in a constant state of nutritional ketosis, which is proven to preserve the genome, protecting DNA. “This is beneficial to NASA as it can counter-measure neurological risks that come with space travel such as space radiation, lack of oxygen and stress of small spaces,” researchers said.No other crew members will be in this metabolic state, creating a baseline for how environmental factors impact the human body in such extreme conditions.

Data will also be collected from the other crew members on gut microbiome, body composition, cognitive tasks, vision assessment, sleep quality and a variety of other physiological parameters. Other objectives of the NEEMO 22 crew include testing counter measure equipment, technology for precisely tracking assets and assess hardware sponsored by the European Space Agency (ESA) that will help crew members evacuate someone who has been injured on a lunar spacewalk.