Research on living and working in extreme environments at Aquarius

Scientific exploration in pursuit of new discoveries often takes experts to extreme environments. Dominic D’Agostino, a professor from the University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine, used FIU’s Aquarius Reef Base during the NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) XXII mission to research impacts of pressure changes on human physiology.

The Aquarius Reef Base is the world’s only operating underwater laboratory. NEEMO is a NASA analog mission that sends astronauts, scientists and engineers to Aquarius to train and conduct research to prepare for deep space exploration and missions aboard the International Space Station. Resident aquanauts can spend days to weeks aboard Aquarius by using a specialized form of diving known as saturation diving.

During the NEEMO XXII mission, D’Agostino collected data on how sleep, skin microbiome, metabolic markers, strength and decision-making can be impacted by changing pressures. This research has important implications for long term space exploration, diving medicine, and undersea human habitation.

This article first appeared in the American Association of Colleges of Medicine on Dec. 15, 2019.