Life Aquatic

NASA is preparing for its future moon exploration program by sending astronauts to another inhospitable environment: the depths of the ocean.

This summer, NASA astronauts will join an international diving crew in a special underwater laboratory under the Atlantic to prepare astronauts for the harsh environment of space as well as the lunar and Martian surfaces.

NASA and the Aquanauts

The team of astronauts and "aquanauts" will collect data about sleep, body composition, and using augmented reality for navigation while stationed at the Aquarius laboratory some 62 feet (19 meters) below the surface, six miles off the shore near Key Largo, Florida.

The Aquarius Reef Base is the only operational permanent underwater research facility in the world. It can fit six researchers and is operated by Florida International University (FIU) — but also used by NASA and the Navy.

"The close parallels of inner and outer space exploration will be clearly demonstrated during this undersea mission, " NEEMO Project Lead Bill Todd said in a statement. "In the interior of Aquarius, aquanauts and astronauts will tackle an array of experiments and human research related to long duration space travel."

NASA is gearing up for a very aggressive timeline to return Americans to the surface of the Moon. But budget troubles are putting the 2024 Moon mission in jeopardy.

READ MORE: Astronauts Are Heading Under the Sea to Test Moon Mission Tech []

More on NASA's Moon mission: NASA’s Moon Mission Leader Just Quit After Only Six Weeks

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