Status Report

NASA NEEMO 9 Mission Journal Mission Day 3 Wednesday, April 5, 2006

By SpaceRef Editor
April 10, 2006
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NASA NEEMO 9 Mission Journal Mission Day 3 Wednesday, April 5, 2006

Dave Williams:

Today was a busy day and we hit the deck working hard right at 6 a.m. Everyone had a quick bite and tried to get ahead with our science experiments before the daily planning conference at 7 a.m. I donned the ambulatory monitoring system to do the same experiment that Ron did yesterday. Our morning started with setting up the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) – or rover, that we can operate from either the habitat or Houston to retrieve the simulated lunar specimens. We had some technical challenges getting the video signal from the rover to the ExPOC (Exploration Planning and Operations Center) in Houston that we overcame with the assistance of our topside mission control team. Each crew member practiced driving the rover on the sandy bottom to the east of the habitat and also flew the rover through the water at different “altitudes” above the sea floor. The visibility from the camera view was excellent and the onboard compass helped us maintain our situational awareness while navigating away from the habitat. The ROV activity was followed by two educational outreach events coordinated by Erika from the Distance Learning Center at Johnson Space Center. The students had great questions for us about living and working underwater and the challenges associated with the mission. Following a quick lunch, we went through the set-up procedure to give control of the ROV to the ExPOC. The system worked flawlessly and the team in Houston flew the ROV away from the habitat to find the simulated lunar specimens. They did a great job and it was pretty impressive to see tele-robotic operations controlling a rover exploring outside the habitat. The highlight of the day for our crew was speaking to Jeff Williams and Bill McArthur on board the International Space Station. While they floated inside their spacecraft, divers floated in the water outside our habitat reminding us of the differences between our environment and theirs. Despite some differences, Aquarius is a tremendous test bed for exploration science allowing us to do the advanced tele-robotic surgical experiments inside the habitat while simulating lunar spacewalks on the sea floor outside the habitat. We finished the day with a number of interviews with TV stations in Toronto, Montreal and Cincinnati. Our daily planning conference was busy this evening as we worked to fine tune the schedule for tomorrow. It is almost time for lights out – one of my favorite times of the day when I lie in my bunk looking out the viewing port at the fish outside and reflect on what an incredible experience this is!

Ron Garan:

What an incredible day. The day started out with a test drive/flight of one of our remotely controlled vehicles (ROVs) affectionately called “Scuttle.” We started by flying the vehicle off the “porch” on the back of the habitat. We flew it over to a location where we believed simulated lunar samples were located. We landed near the site and drove the rest of the way to the location. Each of us took turns flying and driving the vehicle via remote control while watching a video image sent from cameras on the front of the vehicle. Later in the day mission control also drove the vehicle remotely from Houston. While Houston was driving the ROV, I was tending the vehicle’s umbilical from the back of the habitat. As I was feeding the umbilical in and out, several dozen School Master fish (1 to 2 feet long) lined up right next to me and remained perfectly still watching every move I made. The fish stayed right next to me the entire time I was in the water. Nicole and Tim went out for their first dive with the dive helmet that we are using to simulate our space exploration suits. During their dive I was the dive supervisor and ensured that we suited them up properly and talked to them on our communication equipment during their excursion. In addition to all our exploration activities and some telemedical experiments that Dave and Tim performed, we participated in a number of education outreach events and live media video interviews across the United States and Canada. One of the highlights of the day was a live video conference between our crew and the crew of the International Space Station. It was a very unique experience to talk with and see the crew in orbit above the Earth while they were seeing us and talking to us on the bottom of the ocean. It was especially fun since Jeff Williams has also experienced living on Aquarius and he could really relate to our experience. It’s been a fun, long and productive day and I’m looking forward to hearing the crackle of the Snapper shrimp as I drift off to sleep.

Nicole Stott:

Today we had a really nice mix of exploration and science activities on our schedule. Very busy, but fun stuff. Today was the first day we got to fly the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) “Scuttle” around outside the habitat. We flew it as the operator from inside the habitat and our mission support team flew it as the operator remotely from the control center in Houston. We spent some time getting oriented with the flying and handling characteristics of the ROV as well as the system setup to run it. We simulated surveying the local area and picking up some simulated “lunar” samples to bring back for evaluation. It is pretty cool to think about this as an activity in support of going back to the moon.

We supported several educational outreach and Public Affairs events today with schools and reporters from around the country and Canada. It’s really neat to see how much interest there is in the NEEMO missions. It gives me hope that that same kind of interest is out there for the space program!

Tim and Dave kicked off the robotic telemedicine activities today, performing the first sessions on the in vivo robot developed by the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. These are pretty cool little robots that would actually go inside the abdomen of the patient to provide the surgeon with better situational awareness and to help minimize the number of incisions made to gain access to the different abdominal areas. For our experiments down here, we have a simulated patient (looks like a silver mailbox with some holes in the top that the laparoscopic instruments are passed through) that houses the materials associated with the different tasks we’re doing to simulate surgical tasks. We’re doing things like passing a marked string from one forcep to another, stretching and cutting rubber band material in specifically marked places, and stapling different pieces of materials simulating internal organs like an appendix.

One of the highlights of the day was our videoconference with Jeff Williams and Bill McArthur on the International Space Station. It was great to get a chance to talk with them from our undersea home. At the end of the conference they were both playing around doing flips and other microgravity stunts, so we played around on the video and made it look like we were floating around Aquarius. It was pretty funny.

Tim Broderick:

Quite a day! I slept great last night. I only woke once in the middle of the night to see a couple of big goliath groupers swimming by the bunkroom view port. I peacefully fell back to sleep to awake at 6 a.m. with the rest of the crew. Lots of fish about the habitat this morning.

After Daily Planning Conference, we started with “Scuttle” — our affectionate name for the Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV) we are using in our exploration experiments. After orientation, we flew the rover around outside our habitat. We then landed the rover and rolled over to some simulated lunar rocks. With some pretty skilled operation, we came close to picking the rocks up — they were a little too big for the jaws of the manipulator. Even better, later in the day we handed the controls over to ExPOC in Houston and let them explore as well. Very cool! Lessons learned included the need for good umbilical management.

Today was the first day of the mission that we used a special dive helmet. Wow. Even without weighting for simulated lunar buoyancy, it was awesome. More to come throughout the mission…

Intravehicular telehealth science today included telementored in vivo robots from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. They are robots so small that you can fit them into the patient through small “keyhole” incisions. Dave and I performed some tasks and a simulated appendectomy using these small robots. From big rovers in the ocean to small rovers in a simulated patient, these robotic technologies should help us get back to the moon and on to Mars.

Speaking of exploration, we tagged up with the International Space Station crew today. Great talking to the current Expedition crews and seeing them perform some microgravity “S-drills” they remembered from their NEEMO training. We had quite a few Public Affairs activities today all of which went well.

My day was very full, I am very tired, and it is past lights out…

SpaceRef staff editor.