Press Release

Undersea Habitat Becomes Experimental Hospital Bed for NEEMO 7

By SpaceRef Editor
August 12, 2004
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Undersea Habitat Becomes Experimental Hospital Bed for NEEMO 7

The days of doctors making house calls may seem like
ancient history for most patients in North America, but in
October, three astronauts and a Canadian doctor will test the
latest concepts in long-distance house calls using a unique
underwater laboratory.

The ability to conduct long-distance health care such as
telemonitoring and telerobotic surgery could be key to
maintaining the wellness of future spacefarers and responding
to medical emergencies on the International Space Station,
the moon or Mars. Techniques will be tested on a simulated
patient during the upcoming seventh mission of the NASA
Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) project.

Canadian Astronaut Dave Williams will lead a crew on the 10-
day undersea mission October 11-20 aboard the National
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Aquarius
Underwater Laboratory, located off the coast of Key Largo,

“Astronauts navigating between planets won’t be able to turn
around and come home when someone gets sick, and this
undersea mission will help chart a course for long-distance
healing,” said NEEMO Project Manager Bill Todd. “Aquarius,
with its physical and psychological isolation on the floor of
the Atlantic, will provide the real stresses needed to
validate telemedicine in an extreme environment,” he added

NASA Astronauts Mike Barratt and Cady Coleman, as well as Dr.
Craig McKinley of the Centre for Minimal Access Surgery at
St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, Ontario, will join Williams
in the experiment. Williams, Barratt, and McKinley are
physicians. Air Force Lt. Col. Coleman holds a Ph.D. in
engineering. Two other engineers, James Talacek and Ross Hein
of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, will work
side-by-side with the crew in Aquarius.

According to Dr. Mehran Anvari, director of the Centre for
Minimal Access Surgery at St. Joseph’s Healthcare, NEEMO 7
will demonstrate and evaluate innovative technologies and
procedures for remote surgery. Anvari, who will be based in
Hamilton during the mission, will use two-way
telecommunication links to guide the aquanauts through
diagnosis and surgery on a mock patient inside Aquarius.
Another simulation will involve virtual reality control
technology to guide telerobotic surgery on the mock patient.

Similar in size to the International Space Station’s living
quarters, Aquarius is the world’s only permanent underwater
habitat and research laboratory. The 45-foot long, 13-foot
diameter complex is three miles off Key Largo in the Florida
Keys National Marine Sanctuary. It rests about 62 feet
beneath the surface.

A buoy on the surface provides power, life support and
communications capabilities for Aquarius. A shore-based
mission control for the Aquarius laboratory in Florida and a
control room at NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC), Houston,
known as the Exploration Planning Operations Center, will
monitor the crew’s activities.

Aquarius is owned by NOAA, operated by University of North
Carolina at Wilmington, and funded by NOAA’s Undersea
Research Program. The NEEMO missions are a cooperative
project between NASA, NOAA and the University.

Reporters interested in interviewing the NEEMO 7 crewmembers
during their mission should contact the JSC newsroom at

For additional information about the NEEMO project on the
Internet, visit:

For additional information about Aquarius on the Internet,

SpaceRef staff editor.