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NASA probes underwater operations

Called NEEMO, geddit?

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Three astronauts and a doctor are being sent sub-aqua to try out medical techniques in a simulated space environment. Procedures developed by the NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations project ('NEEMO' - bet that was a red letter day for the agency's pun lab) may one day be used in real space emergencies, the agency says.

From 3 April to 20 April astronauts in the Aquarius underwater lab off the Florida Keys will be directed in surgeries by doctors thousands of miles away. Chest-burster stitch-up jobs and lightsaber amputations will be woefully neglected by the underwater med school.

Also set for practice are "undersea moonwalking techniques". Sadly, pushing the frontiers of dance technology is not on the cards. Instead the team will learn lessons for future lunar exploration, such as construction using remote operated vehicles.

NEEMO was originally scheduled for October last year, but was stalled by the hurricane season. ®

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