Youngstown State grad embarks on underwater mission for NASA

The Cortland native dons flippers and scuba gear for the adventure of a lifetime -- researching on NASA's NEEMO 22 expedition

Cortland native Trevor Graff, leading the pack of divers (Courtesy: NASA)
Cortland native Trevor Graff, leading the pack of divers (Courtesy: NASA)

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – Sixty-two feet below the surface, teams of astronauts, scientists, and engineers will spend up to three weeks at a time doing research underwater to prepare for space missions. One of those aquanauts and NASA planetary scientist is a Lakeview and Youngstown State grad.

Trevor Graff’s underwater expedition started on Sunday. He’s working in an underwater lab three and a half miles off the coast of Key Largo, Florida.

Trevor Graff (Courtesy: NASA)
Trevor Graff (Courtesy: NASA)

“Where I’m sitting right now is like, about 50 feet inside the habitat, which is like, a mini submarine under the water. It’s unique because it’s the only one in the world right now that’s underwater,” Trevor said.

The Cortland native works in the Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science (ARES) division. He is donning flippers and scuba gear for the adventure of a lifetime — researching on NASA’s NEEMO 22 expedition with three other aquanauts.

NEEMO stands for NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations, which allows NASA to better understand other planetary surfaces. Trevor said NEEMO is a good measure for testing tools and technologies — on things like coral — that can be used to study space.

The information from his research will be used to interpret data gathered from planetary landers, rovers, and orbiting spacecraft.

NEEMO is a project he’s been a part of for while now.

“I’ve been involved with NEEMO since NEEMO 20, so for the past two missions and this is my third one that I’m really involved in,” Trevor said. “Being a part of the saturation crew, I knew what I was getting into and I was super excited to be a part of it this year.”

Trevor even had the opportunity to design the NEEMO 22 mission patches the aquanauts wear on their scuba suits. He said it’s a tribute to the 1960s U.S. Navy aquatic program, SEALAB.

Trevor said this mission will tackle a wide variety of experiments to better understand the effects of long-term confinement in a small space. This will help NASA in its plan for long-duration space travel — eventually to Mars.

“A lot of things that are conducive to the [International Space Station] and not only the types of things NASA is doing today, but also forward-looking to the types of things NASA is doing in the future.”

Whether it’s on land or in the sky and sea, Trevor is proud of his hometown roots.

“It all came full circle but it all started with the opportunity that I was provided at Youngstown State, and it really just blossomed from there.”

Trevor received two bachelor’s degrees in Geology and Earth Science from YSU, then earned a master’s in Geological Sciences from Arizona State.

Trevor said the mission allows him to blend his love for aquatics and his passion for geology.