NEEMO 14 Mission Day 2

Heather Paul and Amanda KnightHeather Paul and Amanda Knight
Analog Lead Technical Liaison for Education and Public Outreach
Topside in Key Largo, Florida!

Mission Day 2 was our first day of science extravehicular activities (EVAs). The focus of today’s underwater excursions was to evaluate one of the center of gravity (CG) locations on the CG rig.

Chris and Steve kicked off the EVAs in the morning, Tom and Andrew followed up in the afternoon. During the CG tests, the crew goes through a series of movements and tasks that will be repeated throughout the mission, but on each EVA the location of the weights on their back is different. These movements include basic things like walking, running, and jumping… they do this on the sea floor (level ground), and they also walk up and down a ramp. They kneel down and stand up, and pretend to fall down and get back up.

The Aquanauts are also testing several movements that astronauts would do if they were on a planetary surface, specific to sample collection and science, such as moving rocks and shoveling. We’ve got a full-sized mockup of a lander underwater (cool!), and the crew is going up and down the ladder, testing how easy/hard it is to move up and down the ladder at angles of 10, 20, and 30 degrees. At the top of the lander there is a crane that the Aquanauts use to test how to lower the rover and small payloads (packages) down to the sea floor, similar to what they would do if they just landed on a planetary surface and were “unpacking” equipment to the surface.

Aquanaut shoveling underwater

Aquanaut practicing shoveling movements.

Crew and exploration rover

Amazing views of the crew with the exploration rover and lander mockups.

It was really fun to watch the EVAs from the Mobile Mission Control Center. We can hear the audio from the two Aquanauts, and we can watch them via the various webcams. Aside from watching the crew work through their EVA tasks, it was cool to see the variety of fish swimming around, also observing the EVAs!

The fish were particularly curious when we started driving the Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV). The ROV is our underwater robotic assistant, equipped with a camera… Mary Sue, Amanda, and Heather took it for a spin in the morning to practice driving from topside, and whenever we stopped, the fish happily swam over to check us out! At one point we saw two stingrays “fly” by… incredible!

We had a video crew on site in the afternoon, and we collected interviews with Nick, Juniper, Lesley, and Astronaut Mike Gernhardt, and we even talked to Chris in the Aquarius! (To learn more about our team, check out our bios). We hope to post these videos on YouTube soon, so stay tuned!

Heather interviews Chris Hadfield

Heather interviewing CSA Astronaut Chris Hadfield in the NASA Mission Control Center.

Three schools had the unique opportunity to work with Mary Sue and Amanda to drive the ROV, view all of the amazing and colorful fish, and see the habitat from the ROV cameras. During our live webcast with Richland Middle School (Richland Hills, TX), the students were actually able to view the Aquanauts with the CG rig performing a few of these tasks from the ROV cameras. We were also able to visit with The Odyssey Academy (Bryan, TX) and Milstead Middle School (Pasadena, TX).

Visiting with students

Mary Sue and Amanda visiting with the students during the live ROV events.

During Mission Day 8 (May 17) we will also be hosting NASA Digital Learning Network (DLN) live webcasts which will include live questions and answers with the Aquanauts. To view these shows, please visit the NASA Digital Learning Network website.