Haugton Mars Project – Sea-Ice Traverse Mission Completed

This blog post is courtesy of the Haughton Mars Project (HMP).
To learn more about HMP go to http://www.marsonearth.org/

Northwest Passage Drive Expedition – 2010: Completion

Moffett Field, CA and Vancouver, BC, 18 April 2010 – An international team of researchers led by Mars Institute scientist Dr. Pascal Lee successfully reached Devon Island, High Arctic, on Sunday, 16 May, 2010 after a 13-day, 150 km vehicular journey from Cornwallis Island to Devon Island, along the fabled Northwest Passage.

The Northwest Passage Drive Expedition team of six departed Resolute Bay, Nunavut, on 5 May aboard the Mars Institute’s Moon-1 Humvee Rover and two snowmobiles. After encountering several days of immobilizing snowstorms and extremely rough sea-ice conditions, the team finally reached the west coast of Devon Island late in the evening of 16 May.

Haughton Mars Project team

The Mars Institute’s Moon-1 Humvee Rover on solid ground at Domville Point, Devon Island, in the evening of 16 May 2010.
See more photos on Flickr.

“It’s both a great joy and a relief to get our Moon-1 onto solid ground on Devon Island” said Lee. “This final sea-ice crossing was quite a challenge, but we had a fantastic team and vehicle, and we just kept working at it”.

Accompanying Lee were Mars Institute crew members Joe Amarualik, John W. Schutt, and Jesse Weaver, and the Jules Verne Adventures documentary team comprising filmmaker Jean-Christophe Jeauffre and director of photography Mark Carroll.

The primary goal of the Northwest Passage Drive Expedition is to transfer the new Moon-1 to Devon Island, a location known to present unique scientific and operational similarities to the surface of the Moon and Mars. There, the rover will be used as a concept vehicle simulating future pressurized rovers to be driven by humans to explore other planetary bodies. The expedition is an integral part of the Haughton-Mars Project (HMP) on Devon Island where research in space science and exploration is being conducted by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), the Mars Institute, the SETI Institute, and other partnering organizations.

Last year, Lee’s team logged a record-breaking drive of 494 km in the Moon-1 along a western section of the Northwest Passage, the longest distance ever driven on sea-ice in a road vehicle. This year, the team applied the same winning strategy to avoid the roughest areas of sea-ice along the Wellington Channel. It used a variety of radar satellite remote sensing data and its own surface reconnaissance by snowmobile to find the smoothest possible ice route between Abandon Bay, Cornwallis Island, and Domville Point, Devon Island, where the Moon-1 is now safely parked.

The next step will be to drive the Moon-1 overland to the Haughton-Mars Project Research Station on Devon Island later this summer, where it will be used to begin long-range dual pressurized rover exploration studies.

“The arrival of the Moon-1 on Devon Island ushers in a new phase in our space exploration work that will be critical to enabling humans to explore other worlds sooner, more safely, and more productively” remarked Lee.

NEEMO 14 Mission Day 10

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

Storms out at sea covered the sky with dark grey clouds today… Nonetheless, we have a crew underwater, so our dive team was ready for action!

Chris and Steve went out in the morning and Tom and Andrew followed in the afternoon. Mission day (MD) 10 extravehicular activities (EVAs) were similar to the activities and tasks performed during the EVAs on mission day 4. The crew wore the life support backpack mockups, and added weights to simulate working on the lunar surface in one-sixth of the Earth’s gravity. The crew performed many different mission objectives, such as entering and exiting the ascent module, transferring payloads from the sea floor to the lander deck, and moving the injured crewmember mockup.

The big difference in these tasks, compared to earlier in the mission, is the 20-minute delay in communication with our topside support team and Mobile Mission Control Center, as well as the lack of audible communication with any of the support diving team. This delay was instituted during week 2 of the mission, in order to simulate the delay in communication that would happen on a mission to Mars. During this EVA, the only people with whom the EVA crew could speak while performing their tasks were the other aquanauts, who were monitoring progress from inside the Aquarius habitat.

Our Aquarius team members have become so familiar with each other and their unique ways of performing and thinking, that all of the activities went off without a hitch. Mission day 10 was an EVA success!

Injured crewmember mockup

Aquanauts transfer the injured crewmember mockup through the hatch of the ascent module on top of the lander deck.

Support divers and aquanaut

Support divers, Juliet and Barbara, strike a pose with an aquanaut.

Our education and public outreach efforts turned to the media today as Tom, Andrew, and Chris were interviewed by several journalists. News coverage of NEEMO continues to grow. If you’d like to see some of the articles that have been released so far, check out the links below. More articles will be out this week and after the mission, as we continue to spread the word about NEEMO 14!

Time for Kids: “From Space to Sea”
Trendhunter Magazine: “Underwater Space Camps”
Gizmodo: “NASA Finds Outer Space 65 Feet Underwater”
Yacht Charters Magazine: “Media Advisory: Astronaut Chris Hadfield Teaches 1500 Students While Underwater”

We’d also like to mention that several of the students who have been able to view and participate in our education outreach activities have contacted us to express their appreciation, so we’ve included their comments in this blog. We are so happy to share the NEEMO 14 activities with all of you, and thank YOU for following along!

Brandon M: I think it is so amazing that the technology is so amazing to talk to people all the way around the world.

Nathan G: The astronaut under water was amazing. I think it was a good experience because it shows how astronauts train under water.

Melissa O: It was a great opportunity to talk to an astronaut. I am so glad I go to a NASA Explorer School.

Ryan L: This was a great experience to take part in.

Andrew G: It was interesting talking to aquanauts and learning what it is like to live in there [the Aquarius] for two weeks.

Leland K: I think it is really exciting to go underwater 60 feet for two weeks and see all the sea life but it will be cool when we go to the moon…

Corinna N: I think it is a wonderful experience to talk to astronauts underwater! A once in a lifetime chance! And learn why they are there!

Libby E: When I was asking my question the aquanaut left his microphone on and I could hear my voice in the background. It was pretty cool.

Nikayla B: That’s amazing how you can talk to us while being in a total different state and under 60 feet of water! I want to be part of NEEMO someday.

Jessica W: I thought it was very interesting to see the aquanaut in the water and having the aquanaut answer our questions about the NEEMO expedition.

Miranda I: It was so epic. It was such a good experience like I learned so much like you don’t even know!

Stevie E: It was a once in a lifetime experience that I will never forget! Epic!

Erryn A: I think watching the NEEMO video was fun: learning about the place and where they live when they are under the sea is cool. I wish I could be under sea like the NEEMO people.

Antonia D: It was awesome being able to talk to someone on the other side of the United States 60 feet under water. I’ll never forget it. It was cool to see an aquanaut swim past the window.

Gustavo L: It is great to be in a NASA Explorer school. You get more opportunities than other schools.

Andy W: (with a drawing of a couple dinosaurs) I, personally, found the whole idea to be quite incredible. Oh, the things technology can do.

Donny O: I really liked the live feed because it as a once in a lifetime experience and it was cool to talk to someone out of state.

Dallas M: I really liked it and it was interesting listening to what they do and how they do it.

Only a few Mission Days left… keep watching! We have more Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) activities happening on MD11!

NEEMO 14 Crew Journal: Mission Day 10

I’m the Commander of this underwater team. Here’s what I’ve been thinking about:

Keep Your People Safe – learn the risks, understand the goals, and then be relentless in making things as safe as possible, never being afraid of improvement. Where’s a better place for that? What will we do when that thing breaks?

Enjoy Yourselves – if people believe in what they are doing and in each other’s company, they will stay healthy and happy longer. Find common things for the team to believe in that are greater then themselves, and give them time to have fun with ideas.

Get the Job Done – know what you want. Keep the schedule out in front, constantly re-evaluate priorities vs time, be unafraid to stop when done, but push it when needed. Contentment in shared accomplishment is a wonderful drug.

Is the Building on Fire? – let things develop, and delay negative reactions. If someone is going plus or minus 90 degrees of you, you’re headed the same direction.

Stay in Touch – none of us are in this life alone. Listen to each other, say what you are doing and feeling, and don’t hoard amazing experiences.

– Chris Hadfield




Calling Home

Mother's Day

NEEMO 14 Mission Day 9

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

What a beautiful day to be at sea! After many days of high waves, wind, and “cloudy” conditions underwater, today the sky was clear, the waves were flat, and our topside team and Aquanauts were ready for another fantastic NEEMO day!

Today the crew finished the last of 6 days of evaluations and tests to determine how lighter or heavier weights and the placement of the weights affected their ability to work. The Moon’s gravity is 1/6 that of Earth, so if you weigh 60 pounds on Earth, you would only weigh 10 pounds on the Moon! During our underwater tests, to simulate weights of 200, 300, and 400 pounds (like what you would weigh on Earth with your spacesuit and life support backpack), we added 1/6 of those weights to the crew to simulate Lunar gravity conditions. So, here’s a test… how much weight did we put on the Aquanauts to make the 200, 300, and 400 pound weight conditions feel like Lunar gravity???

If you answered 33, 50, and 67 pounds, you got it right!

As you might expect, the crew preferred the lightest weight condition overall. But surprisingly, the lightest weight was not always the easiest to work with. For tasks such as shoveling or turning a crank, the simulated 400 pound weight (really 67 pounds) was preferred because it helped them exert the force they needed to complete their task. However, while walking around on the ocean floor and climbing the lander ladder, the crew performed most efficiently while wearing the lighter weight.

Working out with the “400 pound” weights… well, probably the light weights 🙂

Wearing different weights, the crew performs tasks from shoveling, to walking to climbing.

Today was also another big day for our education and public outreach events…

During his morning extravehicular activity (EVA), Chris did a special “shout out” to students and teachers at the Chris Hadfield Public School in Canada, connecting to an event with fellow Canadian astronaut Dave Williams. The school connected to Chris’s diver camera (click the “Red Diver” camera on the Aquarius webcam page) and Chris spoke briefly about being an aquanaut, gave a quick tour of the view from the lander deck, and introduced Tom (also out on EVA) and Nate (habitat technician and support diver assisting during the EVA activities). What a special moment, and as we watched from topside, we all decided that we wished we had that kind of cool experience when we were in school! Check out the awesome video.

We conducted one more Digital Learning Network event in the morning. Andrew talked to students from The Odyssey Academy (Bryan, TX), Richland Middle School (Richland Hills, TX), and Milstead Middle School (Pasadena, TX). This DLN event may be viewed on Youtube. Unfortunately we had a brief network outage, but our topside communications team was quick to restore the connection so that Andrew could continue to talk to these students. This was a particularly special event, as the students that connected to Aquarius were the same groups that Dr. Mary Sue Bell and Amanda Knight talked to while driving the Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) last week! These students created patches for the NEEMO 14 mission, check them out!

Odyssey Academy patch

The Odyssey Academy (Bryan, TX)

Richland Middle School patch

Richland Middle School (Richland Hills, TX)

Milstead Middle School patch

Milstead Middle School (Pasadena, TX)

In the afternoon, Chris conducted an event with students in Canada and discussed the purpose and definitions of analogs; how diving compares to spacewalking; and the value of staging an underwater mission. There were several schools across Alberta, Quebec and Ontario that participated in the live event, including English Montreal School Board, Lester B. Pearson School Board, Sir Wilfred Laurier School Board, Riverside School Board, and Ministry of Education of Alberta.

Overall it was a very successful day of EVAs and outreach activities! We’ve uploaded videos on YouTube and more photos on Flickr, so make sure to check it out!

NEEMO 14 Crew Journal: Mission Day 9

What a great day down here in Aquarius. It was a typical NEEMO day. Lots of good data collected during the extravehicular actvities (EVAs) and some very cool education outreach events. The commander pulled out his collapsible guitar which was last played on the Mir Space Station, very cool!

During one of the outreach events he demonstrated what happens to a can of Pringles when they aren’t properly vented before being sent down to Aquarius. Although they started out as potato chips, they ended up as potato bits. The increased pressure inside Aquarius crushed the can since it was a sealed container. It served as a great learning tool for the school children that were taking apart in the event.

The EVAs were very productive. Andrew and Steve opted to extend their dives by one hour to achieve the mission objectives. Although I have not been able to join them on the EVAs, I constantly monitor their audio, dive helmet cameras and other situational cameras. The work the team is doing is great to watch and I feel a great sense of pride of being a part of the NEEMO 14 team.

My favorite part of day 9 though was the fact that we aren’t in decompression. The majority of Aquarius missions are ten days long, so decompression normally starts on “day 9”. Since this is a 14 day mission we won’t start decompression until day 13. So that means I still have 4 more days before my “living the dream” experience starts to come to an end.

Good night from Conch Reef.

– James Talacek

NEEMO 14 Crew Journal: Mission Day 8

Mission day 8 draws to a close and it is clear to see that we still have some of the coolest jobs on and off the planet. The best thing about being down here with so many different personalities is getting to know them. One of my favorite things to do in life is to laugh, and with this bunch of guys, that’s an easy thing to do.

I’m going to fill you in on what I have observed – only my opinion, not Aquarius’s and most definitely not NASA’s. First we have two PhD’s, one MD, one Colonel, and two habitat technicians. The only thing more intimidating is having a planetary geologist working beside you.

These are easy going, humble guys with great stories to tell. And it’s been great hearing the background stories on these fine gentlemen, where they’ve been, what they have seen, how many times their guitar has been around the world, how many hits they have on Google, or how many crewmember mockups they’ve hauled up a rope.

These guys are truly amazing. Their lives are rich, interesting, and would make many green with envy. Gentlemen, somewhere out there is a child calling you hero, and changing their dreams to follow in your footsteps… my hat is off to you; and James.

– Nate Bender, Habitat Technician, UNCW

CG rig

Center of Gravity (CG) config 4, weight Delta

Andrew and Nate

A real pic to submit of Andrew and myself

NEEMO 14 Mission Day 8

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

Mission Week 2 brings a new set of challenges to NEEMO 14, as we have switched to “delayed communications,” similar to what we would do if the crew was living on Mars. We are simulating this by sending and receiving emails with a 20-minute delay. We are also recording video messages each day to send to Aquarius in response to the crew’s video to the topside team. Aside from that, the crew is completely responsible for keeping the mission timeline on track and ensuring that the extravehicular activities (EVAs) are completed successfully and according to plan.

Lifting the exploration vehicle

During Mission Day 8, the crew began the task of lifting the exploration vehicle from the ocean floor with the large crane.

Today’s EVAs kicked off with Steve and Andrew in the morning, and Tom and Chris in the afternoon. More center of gravity (CG) positions were evaluated today. The visibility was a bit better, but as Commander Chris Hadfield described in our last live morning meeting with the crew for the week, the view out of the porthole window looked like there was a “blue fog” outside. Our diver support team was relieved that the sea conditions resulted in only 2-4 foot waves (compared to last week’s range: up to 8 feet). You can imagine that it’s a lot more fun to be underwater when the seas are that rough!

Divers gather for a photo

Any type of extreme mission requires many aspects of support, from mission control, scientists, doctors to support divers. Our divers gather around the exploration vehicle for a photo op.

Today was also a big day for education activities as the Aquarius crew connected to several schools through NASA’s Digital Learning Network programs. These programs were webcast live on the internet, but, if you were not able to check them out… don’t worry! We’ve uploaded them all to our YouTube site.

Astronaut Tom Marshburn was interviewed by Ronnie Crownover Middle School (Corinth, TX), Stephen F. Austin Middle School (Bryan, TX), Space Center Intermediate (Clear Lake, TX), McMillan Junior High (Wylie, TX), Travis Elementary (Baytown, TX), and The Harry Eichler School (Queens, NY) during the morning EVAs.

Astronaut Tom Marshburn speaks

Astronaut and aquanaut Tom Marshburn speaks to hundreds of children during a live webcast events on Mission Day 8.

Students chat

The Harry Eichler School’s fifth grade students were amazed as they connect to Houston and to the Aquarius to chat with Astronaut Tom Marshburn.

Aquanaut Steve Chappell spoke with students from Magnolia High School (Magnolia, TX), Northwest High School (Justin, TX), Kadoka Middle School (Kadoka, SD), Dunbar Middle School (Lubbock, TX), Cole Middle School (Lancaster, CA) and Key Peninsula Middle School (Lakebay, WA).

Check out what the students had to say on the NEEMO 14 Facebook page.

During our evening debrief, we waited to receive the crew’s video briefing of the days events and questions they may have. As the video began rolling, each crew member was wearing a different silly hat… and if they didn’t have a hat, they made one out of whatever was laying around the habitat. They concluded the debrief with a challenge to the Mission Control Center support staff to be more creative than they were.

So, to finish up our evening, we all put on snorkeling masks and snorkels. At first, during the video, we were are very seriously and intently working away… until the Little Mermaid music broke into the background and we all put on a show. It was a great way to end a very long day! And it is such a pleasure to work with professionals who know when it’s time to let loose… just a little.

NEEMO 14 Crew Journal: Mission Day 6

Settling In

We’re nearing the halfway point of our mission, settling into a comfortable routine. The habitat technicians start the day, awakening to check the health of our underwater home, and we all soon rouse to begin our daily regimen.

We first breeze through our life sciences data takes so we can begin breakfast. The process for six crewmembers on a small vessel begins to resemble a small school of fish – a loosely choreographed activity as we swerve around each other writing email, preparing coffee, eating granola, and cleaning little spots and spills. Saying “excuse me” or “sorry” is becoming needless. Small collisions are so common in such close living quarters – they become unavoidable, expected, and barely noticed. One crewmember at a time steels himself and departs for the inevitable plunge into the deep ocean for a trip to the “outhouse,” to return to the team, smiling and refreshed.

Amazingly, the activity at once converges, and all crewmembers are ready for the morning conference with the topside. We then disperse again as we prepare for the first extravehicular activity (EVA), each preparing for our roles for the task, and like a single organism, again converge with all attention focused on the suiting up of our EVA duo.

Our attention remains welded to the checklist, video cameras, and communication protocols, until several hours later when both crew members are back inside and we prepare hot meals and drinks. The vigorous physical labor and successful completion of good work are essential elements of a good day. More science, more writing, perhaps a nap, before the second set of EVAs. End of the day is a mirror image of the beginning, with dinner replacing breakfast, and activity slowing as we contact friends or families, and perhaps take some time to muse about life out the window. The habitat technicians are the first to prepare for sleep, and then one-by-one the crew members retire their laptops, lay down their notes, turn off their night lights, and fall asleep to the surge and sway of the ocean.

NEEMO 14 Mission Days 6 and 7

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

On Saturday, mission day 6 (MD6), the NEEMO 14 crew completed another day of extravehicular activities (EVAs) and mission activities. Once again we experienced rough sea conditions that affected the visibility underwater, which was limited to approximately 15 feet. The strong currents definitely impose a greater fatigue on the crewmembers as they perform their underwater tasks. In addition, the aquanauts are loaded with different weight configurations, some of which make tasks easier to perform, and others, more difficult.

Aquanauts team on the lander

Aquanauts team together on the lander surface while preparing for CG rig evaluations.

The mission activities improve with each mission day as the crew and mission support teams learn how to work together as a team… communication is good, and the EVAs are moving effectively, safely and on schedule.

Aquanaut and flag

Despite rough sea conditions, complete isolation from the surface and close quarters, the aquanauts are still excited to be participating in the next generation of technology development.

As the official part of mission day 6 came to a close, the aquanauts set out on their own underwater adventure… a night dive!

Night dive

During mission day 6, the aquanauts were able to suit up with lights added onto their helmets and perform a night EVA.

Chris and Andrew

Chris and Andrew are hanging out in the Aquarius galley as Tom and Steve perform their Saturday evening EVA.

Mission day 7 was a rest day for the aquanauts and topside teams. Rest was much needed as mission week 1 came to a close and we prepped for mission week 2: destination Mars!!! As of mission day 8, the NEEMO 14 team will begin working the mission with delayed communications to simulate the communications delays we would experience if the crew was on Mars. The objective of this activity is to simulate how to run a mission when the crew is on a surface so far away, that they cannot speak to the mission control personnel in real time. Stay tuned for more details and keep checking our Flickr and Facebook pages for more NEEMO 14 pictures and information!

NEEMO 14 Mission Day 5

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

What a way to spend a Friday… Mission Day 5 was another great day for NEEMO 14 as the Aquanauts tested another center of gravity (CG) configuration under water and performed cargo lander-based tasks and evaluations! Chris and Andrew went outside in the morning, and Tom and Steve were out in the afternoon.

CG rig configuration

During this CG rig configuration and activity, the crew is tasked with picking up rocks from one location and transferring them to another location.

CG rigs

The CG rigs have three primary configurations which will be evaluated during this mission. Located on the back of the rig are the pictorial representations of these configurations. During their tasks, the crew is not aware of the exact characteristics.

The murky pictures above represent the harsh sea conditions. At times during Mission Day 5, the wind was so severe above the ocean surface, that it affected the operations of the crew; for example, the crew had to stay tethered to the lander at all times. Some of the wind gusts were even vertical! Also, the exploration vehicle was tethered and tied down throughout the day.

The topside crew and aquanauts were all very excited about the launch of Shuttle mission STS-132… it’s fantastic to be running an analog mission here in the Florida Keys while NASA launches a crew into space! Make sure to follow the mission activities at www.nasa.gov. The aquanauts had the opportunity to watch the last planned launch for the shuttle Atlantis while they were preparing for their second extravehicular activity (EVA) of the day.

Space shuttle Atlantis launch

Space shuttle Atlantis lifted off from Launch Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on the STS-132 mission to the International Space Station at 2:20 p.m. EDT on May 14.

During our evening tag-up meeting with the crew, Chris shared with the team that his first launch into space was actually on the Atlantis – which made watching this launch an especially meaningful mission to him. Not only was he blessed with the opportunity to perform a mission on the Atlantis, but from the depths of the Atlantic Ocean, he was able to view its potential last launch.

Chris and Tom conducted several interviews with the media, including CBS Smart Planet, Universe Today, Discovery TV’s “The Daily Planet” and the Globe and Mail newspaper.

As most folks prepare for the weekend, our NEEMO 14 crew looks to another day of EVAs and mission activities on Saturday, Mission Day 6, and then they’ve got a much-deserved rest day on Sunday!