Posted: Tuesday, August 14, 2007
The Exploration EVAs started in earnest on Saturday, Mission Day 6. Several of these tasks were done in close proximity to the habitat, as they configured their tools and evaluated their equipment. One of the first tasks was another EVA Physiology, Systems and Performance (EPSP) Project study in support of tasks identified by the NASA Lunar Architecture Team (LAT-2) as likely lunar geological exploration tasks for future lunar missions. The tasks performed in a 1/6 gravity environment included soil, rake, and drive tube samples, and rock collection. Operations procedures from the Apollo missions were used and the crewmembers evaluated human factors and operational considerations of prototype geological tools and a sample carrying device. The crew also evaluated methods for single tool usage versus combining the tools into a single transportable package that could be deployed and utilized at a lunar worksite. Multiple types of data were collected for each task and will be compared to LAT-2 estimates and actual Apollo data. In addition, recommendations and feedback were given on the design of future lunar tools and sample carrying devices. In the picture below, look between Satoshi and Nick and you can see the tools attached to a gray board, which is attached to the structure (bell) in the background. Satoshi is recording data from one of his runs.
Satoshi and Nick on the "Apollo Tools" task
Another task they performed is called a "Solar Power Unit (SPU) deploy". On the moon we expect to need a solar power collection device located away from the landing zone (so it doesn't get blasted by sand and rocket exhaust) and perhaps even away from the habitat (for example, to improve the lighting.) But how would one actually take this SPU, deploy it remotely, and run the power back? The method we tried was to tow it behind the lunar rover on a trailer, with a simple reel mechanism to feed the power line out. In the pictures below you see Chris and Ricky laying out the power line while setting off to a distant location where the SPU will end up. This simple, manual reel mechanism has little possibility of failure or jamming.
Securing the cable and setting off
Top view of SPU deploy
One of the first things any newly arrived explorer would do upon arriving at their alien home would be to survey the local area. Here you see Nick conducting a field survey using an ingenious undersea navigation device. It allows him to mark the coordinates relative to the base of any features of interest or that may be worthy of closer examination. They did in fact mark multiple locations of "geological" interest (in this case, we used coral formations as a substitute for rock formations). After review by our team planetary scientist, Mary Sue Bell, a few sites were chosen which will be returned to later in order to conduct a more detailed in situ analysis. Satoshi is carrying a lightweight, portable cart which can hold the navigation device, light tools, cameras, etc. on their excursions.
Satoshi and Nick doing a field survey
Finally, a picture to give you a better appreciation for the beehive of activity that occurred on this excursion. In the background you see Aquarius, their home base, towering over the scene. At the far left is a remotely operated vehicle being driven by the Mission Control Team. It is mobile and provides excellent live camera views so that the control team has better situational awareness of on-going activities. Front left two aquanauts are assembling a tower, called Lunasea, which will be described in more detail in an upcoming report. Between them and Aquarius, another aquanaut is preparing the SPU for deploy. The bell, with the plexiglass bubble, has their tools mounted to it, and parts for the construction task sheltered below it. On the right, another aquanaut prepares the rover, which is about to be connected to the SPU trailer. As you can see, all 4 are busy working, and there's a lot going on here... This is in keeping with our current thoughts at NASA that all 4 of our astronauts will do excursions together at the same time on the moon. ... and in case you were wondering, these shots are not staged in any way. All of this activity is happening as planned per the timeline.
A busy day for NEEMO 13 at the Aquarius Reef Base
We'll see you soon,
- NEEMO 13 Topside Team
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