Space Station Astronaut Calls Undersea Lab

Space Station Astronaut Calls Undersea Lab
NASA astronaut Sunita Williams (left), an Expedition 15 flight engineer aboard the International Space Station, speaks to the underwater crew of NEEMO 12 aboard Aquarius during a May 17, 2007 video call. (Image credit: NASA TV.)

NASAastronaut Sunita Williams made a unique ship-to-ship phone call from theInternational Space Station (ISS) Thursday to check in with six aquanautsliving at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.

Williams,an ISS Expedition 15 flight engineer, called a NASA crew of divers,doctors and astronauts working aboard the Aquarius undersea laboratory,where a series of robotic surgery tests and spacesuit mobilityexperiments are underway.

?You guysare in one of the prettiest parts of the world,? Williams toldthe Aquarius crew from her perch 220 miles (354 kilometers) above Earth.

Commandedby veteran shuttle astronaut Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper, the Aquarius crew iscompleting two weeks of underwater living under NASA?s Extreme EnvironmentMission Operations 12 (NEEMO 12) expedition. Aquarius sits more than 62 feet (18meters) underwater off the coast of Key Largo, Florida.

?We aredoing great,? Stefanyshyn-Piper told Williams, adding that her crew will returnto the Earth?s surface early Friday.

NASAastronaut Jose Hernandez, flight surgeon Josef Schmid and Tim Broderick, agastrointestinal surgeon from the University of Cincinnati, are serving aboardAquarius with Stefanyshyn-Piper. Professional divers JamesTalacek and Dominic Landucci, of the University of North Carolina at Wilmingtonthat operates Aquarius for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration,complete the NEEMO 12 crew.

Theaquanauts took a familiar face to the ocean floor with them in the shape of theflat image of a JackRussell terrier named Gorby, the beloved dog of Williams.

?That?sawesome, thank you so much for taking Gorby with you,? Williams told theAquarius crew. ?It?s really cool to see him.?

Williamshas lived aboard the ISS for more than five months and is dueto return in mid-June during NASA?s STS-117 shuttle mission to the orbitallaboratory. She is also a former Aquarius aquanaut and spent seven daysunderwater during NASA?s NEEMO 2 missionin May 2002.

?I think NEEMOwas, for me, a great precursor for coming up here,? Williams told the Aquariuscrew of the ISS. ?It?s very much a great parallel and I think it?s a great warmup for anybody coming up to live on the space station.?


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Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. In October 2022, Tariq received the Harry Kolcum Award for excellence in space reporting from the National Space Club Florida Committee. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. You can find Tariq at and as the co-host to the This Week In Space podcast with space historian Rod Pyle on the TWiT network. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter @tariqjmalik.