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Pensacola scientist spends 8 days living underwater for NASA research

Pensacola scientist spends 8 days living underwater for NASA research

A 16-day simulated space mission in the Florida Keys is almost over. Researchers have spent the last two weeks in extreme conditions, hoping to learn valuable information for future space exploration.

Pensacola local and research scientist, Dr. Dawn Kernagis, is from the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition. Channel Three new had to Skype with her, because she's currently 45-feet below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean.

The NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO), began July 21. Researchers and astronauts split into two groups, taking turns living under water for eight days at a time.

"All of this is testing out technology that they've developed for planetary exploration," said Dr. Dawn Kernagis. "Different software, different hardware that they could see using, so when you land on mars and have to start staging out and identifying new places for planting or growing or collecting samples, they're starting to test some of the tools they think they'll be using in planetarium exploration."

Dr. Kernagis is working the second half of the mission, living and working 45 to 95 feet below sea level. It's not all work however, there are some major perks.

"I woke up this morning and I looked out the window of my bunk, and I saw a Goliath Grouper that was hanging out outside my window," said Dr. Kernagis. "To see the barracuda and all the different fish that are swimming by on a regular basis, to watch eagle rays, it's just fantastic. The view never gets old, never gets tiresome."

But there are some downfalls. She told me one of the hardest things about living below sea level is that it's a lot more difficult to breathe, because the air is so dense.

The mission ends Friday. All of the researchers will return home after debriefing and medical evaluations.

When asked what she wanted to do first, she said eat a giant, fresh salad.

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