POLITICS

Canadian astronaut's first mission will take him... underwater

09/15/2011 05:19 EDT | Updated 01/12/2012 02:08 EST
LONGUEUIL, Que. - One of Canada's newest astronauts has been assigned to his first mission which is set begin next month.

But David Saint-Jacques will not be going into outer space during the 13-day quest.

He will instead head in the opposite direction -- undersea -- to take part in the NEEMO 15 mission in "Aquarius," a subaquatic facility off the coast of Florida.

It is the first undersea mission to simulate a visit to an asteroid and is set to begin Oct. 17.

The international space community is now focusing on a trip to an asteroid -- something U.S. President Barack Obama has said he would like to see happen by 2025.

Saint-Jacques says his team will be simulating spacewalks and figuring out challenges like how to anchor to the surface of an asteroid, how to move around and how to collect data.

Fellow Canadian Jeremy Hansen will assume the role of capsule communicator on the surface for part of the mission.

The two astronauts, who recently completed their two-year basic training at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, were named to the Canadian astronaut corps in May 2009.

NEEMO stands for NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations.