The NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations – or NEEMO – is a NASA analog mission that sends groups of astronauts, engineers, and scientists to live in the Aquarius underwater laboratory to prepare for space exploration. The aquanauts evaluate scenarios for using science instruments in the International Space Station and on the lunar surface and conduct physiological and psychological research related to long duration space travel. Dr. Pomponi will share her experiences as a member of the international crew who spent 9 days living and working in Aquarius in June 2019.
Shirley Pomponi is a Research Professor at Florida Atlantic University-Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute and the former Executive Director of the NOAA/OAR Cooperative Institute for Ocean Exploration, Research, and Technology. She received her Ph.D. in Biological Oceanography from the University of Miami. Shirley is an ocean explorer and marine biotechnologist. Her research focuses on marine biotechnology and sponge systematics, cell and molecular biology. She is particularly interested in the development of sponge cell models to address questions related to climate change, developmental biology, and the production of chemicals with human health applications. She served on the President’s Panel on Ocean Exploration, was vice chair of the National Academy committee on Exploration of the Seas, and co-chaired the National Academy studies on ocean science priorities for the next decade, “Sea Change: 2015 – 2025 Decadal Survey of Ocean Sciences” and “Biological Collections: Their Past, Present, and Future Contributions and Options for Sustaining Them”. She has led numerous research expeditions worldwide. Conducting a mission in the Aquarius underwater habitat has been on Shirley’s bucket list for 25 years. As an advocate of space exploration (and an astronaut groupie), conducting a NASA mission in Aquarius was a career highlight!