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NASA Space Simulation and Training Project: NEEMO 12

Status Report From: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Posted: Sunday, May 6, 2007

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Principal Investigator: Bill Todd

May 7-18, 2007, the 12th mission of NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) will take place in the Aquarius habitat off the coast of Key Largo, Florida. Aquarius is owned by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and operated by the University of North Carolina Wilmington's National Undersea Research Center (NURC). Aquarius is a 45-foot-long, 9-foot-diameter habitat that rests 62 feet underwater in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. During NEEMO missions, astronauts and researchers live underwater for many days at a time and conduct valuable research that will help astronauts explore the moon and Mars in the upcoming decades.

The NEEMO 12 crew features two NASA astronauts, a NASA physician, a surgeon from the University of Cincinnati, and two NOAA/NURC habitat technicians. These aquanauts will live underwater for 12 days, conducting a variety of advanced medical technology experiments, including robotic telesurgery. Using two remotely controlled surgical robots, school children and scientists in Cincinnati and Nashville will be able to control the robotic arms of these robots in the submerged Aquarius habitat.

The two remotely controlled surgical robots are known as the Raven from the University of Washington and the M-7 from SRI International. In addition to hands on telesurgery demonstrations, robotic telesurgery technology developed and refined within this mission will help surgeons overcome interplanetary communication lag time. Technologies such as surgeon-guided automatic robot function could improve the care of astronauts on future lunar missions.

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