Status Report

NEEMO Mission Day 5 – Mission mid-point

By SpaceRef Editor
August 13, 2007
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NEEMO Mission Day 5 – Mission mid-point

Today we started preparing for autonomous operations. This means all of our communications with “mission control” now have a built-in time delay of 20 minutes in each direction, as 20 minutes is the average delay in communication between Earth and Mars. This morning, in place of a morning teleconference with our mission control team, we watched a video they had ‘up-linked’ to us. In the evening, we videotaped our reply and sent it to them.

We also had the opportunity to talk with interested members of the media about our mission and the current station and shuttle missions. We talked about our status and how we are happy with the mission. We were also excited to share that we our growing our own basil on Aquarius in a growth chamber similar to one that was just delivered to Expedition 15 crew member Clay Anderson by the crew of Endeavour. Clay will also be trying to grow basil on the space station. Additionally, Endeavour will return to Earth carrying millions of basil seeds that will be available to students for use in their own experiments. We want students to think about how we can grow our own food in extreme environments and build growth chambers that will make true autonomy possible on the moon and Mars.

Chris and Ricky prepare our plant growth chamber. By day 5 of the mission, we have seedlings!

Our first task today was a pair of medical drills. We evaluated the status of the patients (ably played by Ricky and Chris), did cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and administered simulated medicine according to our procedures. If you were watching, we hope you saw the sign we posted on the main lock wall to say that these were just drills! The drill went well. We hope such emergencies do not happen in space, but it is nice to be prepared. On a six-month stay on the International Space Station (ISS), you can’t count on being lucky enough to have a doctor on board as we do here on Aquarius (JAXA astronaut Dr. Satoshi Furukawa), so we need to have procedures that any crew member can follow to stabilize and treat a critically ill patient.

Nick and Ricky work through a medical emergency drill on the habitat floor.

In the afternoon, we set up a small robotic manipulator for handling coral samples in the habitat. When we go to the moon and Mars we will need to find a way for astronauts to collect, catalogue, and analyze rock samples without contaminating them. The robotic arm we are using on Aquarius will help us provide data to those people developing the hardware and procedures for those future missions. Of course, all of us on Aquarius dream of conducting future robotic arm operations on the shuttle, ISS, or the moon. We also think a lot about the advances that will be made in robotics by the time students in school today will actually be using robots on Mars.

Nick and Chris set up a robotic arm for processing “lunar” samples

The other big task today was ‘potting’. Supplies come down to Aquarius in large steel cylinders called ‘pots’. Each watertight pot is packed at the surface and must be slowly equalized with the habitats atmosphere, which is at 2.5 times the pressure at sea level. The ‘topside’ team sent down the supplies we will need over the next four days for our autonomous exploration spacewalks – scuba gear, navigation equipment, and a special propeller-driven, wheeled rover that will help us get around the sea floor.

Tomorrow we begin our autonomous phase spacewalk plan. We will be surveying the area for an optimal site for building a lunar communication tower as well as doing a geology exercise using the beautiful coral surrounding Aquarius. We are hoping that through our work, we can help our partners at National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration monitor the health of the reef around Aquarius while we develop procedures to perform geology excursions on the moon and Mars. Finally, we will also be testing Apollo-era tools (shovel, rake, etc.) for efficiency and ease of use. We are really looking forward to our spacewalks over the next three days!

Written by Aquanaut Crew

SpaceRef staff editor.