Matie teams up with NASA for extreme mission

Dr Du Toit is pictured with the team, third from left, with the South African flag on his shoulder.

Five, four, three, two, one… Stellenbosch University alumnus, Dr Noel du Toit, is taking the plunge and braving the deep seas this week, to live and do research at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean for eight days as part of a NASA mission.

The mission, known as NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations project 21 (NEEMO 21), involves studying human/robotic interaction and preparing for future deep space missions.

During these missions, the astronauts (known as “aquanauts”) focus on evaluating tools and techniques being tested for future space exploration, by living in simulated spacecraft conditions and conducting simulated spacewalks outside of their undersea habitat.

The mission takes place at the Aquarius habitat, an undersea research station off the coast of Key Largo in Florida – the last facility of its kind in the world.

Dr Du Toit works as a research assistant professor in mechanical engineering at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California.

He completed his degree in Mechanical Engineering at Maties, and then die a Masters’ degree from MIT in 2005, and a PhD from the California Institute of Technology in 2010.