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NES Chat: Aquarius Habitat -- Analog to the International Space Station
NASA Explorer Schools invited K-12 students across the United States to chat with Dr. Tara Ruttley, Associate International Space Station Program Scientist. Ruttley answered questions about the NEEMO 6 project and a career as Associate International Space Station Program Scientist during a live video webchat on Tuesday March 15, 2011.

A video of this chat is available at the bottom of this page.

What is NEEMO 6? Watch the video below to find out.

In July 2004, Dr. Tara Ruttley became the first engineer aquanaut for the NEEMO 6 mission. She spent 10 days with three astronauts in the Aquarius habitat in the Florida Keys. During this mission, her job was to evaluate hardware from a usability and performance perspective and better understand how astronauts might interact with this equipment aboard the International Space Station.

Tara Ruttley

Tara Ruttley is an Associate ISS Program Scientist. Image Credit: NASA

A woman in a tank in a wet suit

Ruttley participated in a two-hour underwater extravehicular activity along with her NEEMO-6 crewmates. Image Credit: NASA

A woman in a wet suit in a tank of water

Ruttley stretches her right calf in a neutrally buoyant environment. Image Credit: NASA

Ruttley is now the Associate International Space Station Program Scientist and represents all aspects of NASA science on the space station. This includes coordination of experiments with scientists and international partners, as well as communicating about the experiments and results to the public. Ruttley always had wanted to work with the U.S. space program and had a particular interest in biology and physiology. She is fascinated with how microgravity affects human physiology from the systems level all the way down to the cellular level. Ruttley pursued a Bachelor of Science in biology at Colorado State University. Through her participation in student design conferences, Ruttley became more interested in the hardware aspects of maintaining optimal crew health in space. As a result, she pursued a Master of Science in mechanical engineering from CSU, with an emphasis in biomedical engineering. Upon graduation, Ruttley accepted a position in the Biomedical Systems division at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston in January 2001. Combining her training in biology and mechanical engineering, she worked as lead hardware engineer for the Health Maintenance System on the space station. Ruttley has since completed a doctorate in neuroscience from the University of Texas Medical Branch. Her interdisciplinary background has provided her with the skills needed to coordinate experiments from many different fields of science and technology.

Related Resources:
› NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations, or NEEMO
› Aquarius Reef Base Lesson Plans (NOAA activities) →
› Behind the Scenes: NEEMO 6 →

NASA Explorer Schools Registration
If you're a K-12 educator in the U.S. or a U.S. territory and haven't registered yet for the NASA Explorer Schools project, take a few minutes and complete the NES registration form to become part of NASA's exciting K-12 gateway to the future.