This October, NASA will send astronauts and engineers to the National Marine Sanctuary in Key Largo to live underwater for 10 days as part of the NEEMO-15 Mission. NEEMO stands for “NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations”, and is a project that trains NASA explorers for missions to planetary destinations. The crewmembers of this mission will live in the NOAA Aquarius habitat, which has been used by Marine Biologists to study coral and marine life for years. As part of NEEMO-15, NASA is collaborating with Google, NOAA, Zooinverse, the University of Deleware, and others to capture unprecedented images of the reef and engage citizen scientists to assist in the task of identifying and cataloguing the diverse marine life in the region.
Citizens will be able to help by viewing high-resolution images of the ocean floor and circling regions of coral, tagging information about its appearance, and comparing it to any past images which might be available to determine its growth (or destruction) over time. Additionally, during NEEMO mission itself, Aquanauts will traverse over regions and supply more detailed observations and imagery. NASA will use the data cataloged by citizen scientists to help guide future mission time lines and traverse paths toward the most scientifically rich regions of the reef. If successful, this model of performing real science before and after human missions can be duplicated for extraterrestrial destinations.
A community of \~400,000 citizen scientists will have an opportunity to participate in the NEEMO Zooinverse Project via a website that will be launched soon. The website will include real time mission engagement, as well as a DIY “Guide to Participatory Undersea Exploration” that will provide instructions on how you can map undersea terrain or how to build your own undersea rover.