The ocean floor is the best place on earth to train for space. NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) and has sent 16 missions to Aquarius since 2001, and led to invaluable astronaut learning and training. Being weightless and saturated changes the mind set. The aquanauts know they can't surface -- they might as well be on the moon. The June 2012 mission shown here focused on exploring asteroids, and may be the last NASA trip to the underwater space base.
Since 1993, America's "inner space station" has helped us understand the disappearance of coral reefs, train NASA astronauts for space and research sea sponges, the source of two cancer drugs. The discoveries made at Aquarius have opened our eyes to how little we really know about the vast complexity of the ocean. It is one of the planet's most important brain trusts, and this is part of its last scheduled mission.View Gallery »