Astronaut Who Nearly Drowned in Space to Lead Undersea Mission

After nearly drowning in his spacesuit two years ago, Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano is diving into a new mission under the Atlantic Ocean.

Parmitano will command the the 20th NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) expedition, which takes place 62 feet underwater at the Aquarius Reef Base off the coast of Key Largo, Florida. The goal of the 14-day mission is to test new tools and techniques for future spacewalks.

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Parmitano nearly drowned during a spacewalk in 2013 when more than a liter of water flooded his helmet, filling his eyes, ears and nose. (He later said he felt like a "goldfish in a fishbowl.")

NASA investigates dangerous spacewalk water leak 2:01

He found his way back to the International Space Station with the help of his spacewalking partner, NASA astronaut Christopher Cassidy. Despite his near-drowning experience, Parmitano joked about his new mission on Twitter.

He heads to the Aquarius Reef Base on July 20 with an international crew of five people. They will test, among other things, a head-mounted tablet display meant to give astronauts step-by-step instructions without requiring them to take their hands or eyes off their task.

"Living and working in the highly operational, isolated and extreme environment of the aquatic realm has provided significant science and engineering for the benefit of human spaceflight," Bill Todd, the project lead for NEEMO, said in a statement. "It has also clearly proven to be as close to spaceflight as is possible here on Earth."