Asteroid Mining In Florida–And The Producers of AVATAR Are Watching [PHOTOS & VIDEO]

There’s an inner-space station off the coast of Key Largo in Florida. It’s the undersea laboratory Aquarius, which sits 61 feet beneath the surface out by Conch Reef. The place is a national asset, but the government didn’t put it there. The lab is owned by the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. They’ll take in tenants like NASA, though, and Aquarius is now in the middle of a 12-day mission to simulate asteroid mining. Check out these pics and video, and that all makes perfect sense. Where else are astronauts going to settle down for an extended stay in a weightless environment? The best way is to become an aquanaut–and that’s another day at work for the NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations.

The men and women of NEEMO XVI may be pretending, but the physics of inner space are just as real as what astronauts will encounter in outer space. That’s why Aquarius also lures in guys like film producer Jon Landau. You don’t work on movies like Titanic and Avatar without being an adventurer. And with parts of Avatar 2–and maybe Avatar 3–set to take place underwater, Landau might be spending a lot of time beneath the sea with director James Cameron.

Fortunately, Landau has the kind of reputation that allows him to drop by the Aquarius for some underwater visiting. “NASA could not do this training anywhere else,” Landau says, “This NEEMO project is only one example of why a research facility as unique as Aquarius needs to be preserved.  Through other research performed at Aquarius, scientists are gaining a better understanding of the cause and effects on our oceans, its coral reefs and its various life forms.”

These pictures find the producer right at home with NEEMO XVI leader Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger, along with Cornell University professor Steve Squyres, the European Space Agency’s Timothy Peake, and Japanese astronaut Kimiya Yui. The setting is real, but it might also be a glimpse into the future of the industry’s most anticipated film franchise. Now check out these images for some science that’s just as cool as any sci-fi…


[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=apzR_v8srgA&w=560&h=315]

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