Michael Landon Gernhardt (born May 4, 1956) is a NASA astronaut and manager of the Environmental Physiology Laboratory and principal investigator of the Prebreathe Reduction Program (PRP) at the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center.
He enjoys activities such as running, swimming, flying, fishing, and scuba diving. His father, George M. Gernhardt is deceased. His mother, Suzanne C. Winters, resides in Whitestone, Virginia.
From 1977 to 1984, Gernhardt worked as a professional diver and project engineer on a variety of subsea oil field construction and repair projects around the world. He has logged over 700 deep sea dives and has experience in air, mixed gas, bounce bell and saturation diving. During his diving career Gernhardt attended graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania and developed a new theoretical decompression model based on tissue gas bubble dynamics. He then participated in the development and field implementation of a variety of new decompression tables. From 1984 to 1988, Gernhardt worked as Manager and then Vice President of Special Projects for Oceaneering International. During this time he led the development of a telerobotic system for subsea platform cleaning and inspection as well as a variety of new diver and robot tools. In 1988 he founded Oceaneering Space Systems, a company formed to transfer subsea technology and operational experience to the ISS program. From 1988 until his selection by NASA in 1992, he worked on the development of new astronaut and robot-compatible tools for performing maintenance on Space Station Freedom. He also worked on the development of new portable life support systems and decompression procedures for extra-vehicular activity.
At NASA, Gernhardt reported to the Johnson Space Center in August 1992. His technical assignments to date include:
- Flight software verification in the Shuttle Avionics Integration Laboratory (SAIL)
- Development of nitrox diving to support training for the Hubble Space Telescope repair and on a variety of Space Station EVA developments
- Member of the astronaut support team at Kennedy Space Center, Florida, responsible for Shuttle prelaunch vehicle checkout, crew ingress/egress
- Spacecraft communicator (CAPCOM) at Mission Control Center, Houston, during various Shuttle missions
- Lead an international research team in developing a new exercise prebreathe protocol that improved the safety and efficiency of space walks from the ISS.
Gernhardt presently serves as a member of the astronaut office EVA branch and as Principal Investigator of the Prebreathe Reduction Program and Manager of JSC’s Environmental Physiology Laboratory.
A four-flight veteran, Dr. Gernhardt has logged over 43 days in space, including 4 spacewalks totaling 23 hours and 16 minutes. He was a mission specialist on STS-69 in 1995, STS-83 in 1997, STS-94 in 1997 and STS-104 in 2001.
Gernhardt served as an aquanaut on the first NEEMO (NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations) crew aboard the Aquarius underwater laboratory in October 2001. In April 2005, he was the commander of the NEEMO 8 mission.
Gernhardt drove the lunar rover prototype at President Barack Obama’s inaugural parade on January 20, 2009.
On September 19, 2011, NASA announced that Gernhardt would participate in the NEEMO 15 mission in October 2011 from the DeepWorker submersible. The DeepWorker is a small submarine used as an underwater stand-in for the Space Exploration Vehicle, which might someday be used to explore the surface of an asteroid. In June 2012, Gernhardt piloted the DeepWorker as part of the NEEMO 16 mission, for which he was principal investigator.