Status Report

NEEMO 12 Mission Journal May 14, 2007

By SpaceRef Editor
May 18, 2007
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NEEMO 12 Mission Journal May 14, 2007

Mission Day 6/7/8 Topside Report

The weekend allowed some time for the crew to relax, talk to their families, and celebrate Mother’s Day. It was a multi-cultural event!

On the science front, it focused on answering life sciences questions, as the crew donated urine, blood, and saliva to be analyzed back here in the lab. Two of the questions we are trying to answer include a study on oxidative damage during a 12-day saturation mission and immune function changes during a spaceflight analog mission.

You may remember that a similar immune study was undertaken during the NEEMO 5 mission. During that mission, there was evidence of oxidative damage and changes in iron metabolism – as determined by biological markers in blood and urine – similar to that observed during long duration space flight, and this mission allows a thorough follow up. Similarly, during NEEMO 5 we established the validity of the Aquarius facility and the pressures of a NEEMO mission to measure immune function changes, physiological stress, viral reactivation and viral specific immunity using blood samples obtained at several different time points during the mission. This phenomenon is called spaceflight-associated immune dysregulation (SAID). It is thought to be caused by multiple variables found in space missions, and also in NEEMO missions, including: confinement, isolation, health risk (saturation diving), physiological stress, and disrupted circadian rhythms. It’s very important to NASA to understand these physiological changes, in order to ensure crew health on long duration space missions.

On the Robotics front, we finished using the RAVEN robot and brought it back up safely (and dryly!) to the surface, and transferred down the M7 surgical robot. You may remember the M7 as the robot that participated in NEEMO 9. SRI has been working on telepresence surgery technology since the 1980s with a goal to develop a battlefield-based trauma surgery system that could be operated remotely by a surgeon. Telepresence technology can help medical units deliver care to critically wounded soldiers right into a combat zone dramatically increasing their chance for survival. The NEEMO mission demonstrates how the M7 could operate in a space environment. It participated in the American Telemedicine Association (ATA) annual conference in Nashville over the weekend, where both Army personnel and the general public had a chance to drive the robot located in the Aquarius habitat.

You’ve probably gotten the sense by now of how complicated these NEEMO missions are. We often get questions related to how they get supported. If you guessed that there are a lot of people behind the scenes making it happen, you are correct. A good example of how the behind-the-scenes machine works is illustrated by considering for a moment the blood, urine, and saliva samples mentioned earlier. How do we get them from under the sea, keep their biological integrity intact, and get them processed in a timely fashion?!

First, the crew needs to be trained to give these samples, including the blood draws from each other. Luckily, with 2 M.D.s on this mission, that wasn’t a challenge. Then, lots of empty containers need to be sent down and pre-labeled to contain the samples. Biohazard ice chests, full from daily deliveries of ice, contain the samples until they can be brought to the surface, so that the hormones and other important markers don’t degrade before analysis. Divers swim these empty containers and full samples between a support boat and the habitat in small “pots”, which are watertight and can slowly vent in order to equalize the pressure regardless of which direction it traveled. Once back on shore, the samples are rushed to a lab here at the NURC base, where lab technicians promptly analyze them. On a day like Sunday, which included blood, urine, and saliva samples, a team of 3 was in the lab for hours doing its analyses. Similar processes support every need the NEEMO crew has, from food and water to technical equipment, and everything in between.

Thanks for joining us,

— NEEMO 12 Topside Team

For crew journals, live webcam views, images and aquanaut profiles, visit:

For streaming video from Aquarius, visit:

For NASA’s Digital Learning Network, visit:

SpaceRef staff editor.