HERA Campaign 4 Lifts off with 13th Crew

Date: 05-05-17
Location: Bldg 220, HERA
Subject: HERA 13 Crew Photo
Photographer: James Blair

The fourth HERA (Human Exploration Research Analog) Campaign (C4) began on May 6 at NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston. C4, one of several research analogs used by NASA’s Human Research Program (HRP) to prepare astronauts for deep space missions, will consist of four 45-day missions that simulate a real space exploration without actually leaving Earth. An analog is a situation on Earth that mimics physical and mental effects on the body experienced in space. The crewmembers are Timothy Evans, Andrew Mark Settles, James Titus, and John Kennard. This is an all-male crew – by chance, not by design.

HRP will require the crew to conduct the same experiments on all four C4 missions which will enable researchers to identify patterns and variances in the research data. Experiments will include testing hardware prototypes, creating equipment with a 3-D printer, testing out a new concept for space food, flying a simulated exploration vehicle and a virtual extravehicular activity (EVA) on an asteroid.

While the HERA crew conducts their tasks inside the analog, the HERA analog team and researchers will monitor them from the outside. They will collect crew data on the physiological and psychological effects of extended isolation and confinement, team dynamics and conflict resolution.

HRP’s Flight Analogs Project Manager, Lisa Spence said, “NASA’s astronaut selection process has had great success. We try to identify people for HERA missions who fit a similar profile as astronauts. We also make our analog campaigns emulate real space missions as much as possible, which includes 16-hour crew work days, six days a week, with a real-life timeline of scheduled activities from the HERA Mission Control Center.”

Campaign 4, Mission 1 (C4M1) marks the start of HERA’s 45-day missions. Campaign 1, in 2014, were seven-day missions; Campaign 2, in 2015, were 14-day missions; Campaign 3, in 2016, were 30-day missions. Longer mission length allows for more research studies and more data points relevant to longer duration spaceflight missions.

The other three Campaign 4 missions are scheduled as follows: Mission 2 is Aug. 5 – Sept. 18, Mission 3 is Oct. 21 – Dec. 4, and Mission 4 is Feb. 3 – Mar. 19, 2018.

The Test Subject Screening group is accepting curriculum vitaes (CV) for healthy, non-smoking volunteers, ages 30 to 55 for future missions. Volunteers will be compensated and must pass a physical and psychological assessment to qualify. Volunteers wishing to become test subjects should e-mail their CV to jsc-hera@mail.nasa.gov or call 281-212-1492.

For more information on NASA’s Human Research Program, visit: www.nasa.gov/hrp.

Monica Edwards
Laurie Abadie
NASA Human Research Engagement & Communications

Analog to Focus on Optic Health in Astronauts

Optic health in astronauts is the focus of NASA’s upcoming campaign at :envihab at the DLR (Germany’s space agency) in Cologne, Germany. Twelve volunteers will spend 30 days in bed with a head-down tilt of negative six-degrees and will live in a five percent carbon dioxide atmosphere. This will mimic microgravity giving researchers a way to study the effects of pressure on astronauts’ eyes and optic nerve in space.

NASA has been concerned with astronaut’s vision since many (but not all) have returned from six-month stays in the International Space Station complaining of vision impairment that seems to be permanent.

For photographs and more information about :envihab, go to:


8 Amazing Places You Can Visit ‘Mars’ on Earth

Astronauts from five space agencies explore caves in Sardinia as part of a training course designed to teach them how to work effectively in multicultural teams when safety is critical.

A handful of faux space missions exist around the world, and scientists are using them to study various aspects of how humans respond to the challenges of traveling and living in deep space environments. In the space investigation world, these places are called “analogs.” An Analog is a situation on Earth that produces effects on the body similar to those experienced in space, both physical and mental/emotional. These studies help prepare us for long duration missions.

This National Geographic article highlights eight such places around the world with rich descriptions of the analog environment and what the research seeks to accomplish to get us one step closer to Mars.



Antarctica Provides ICE to Study Behavior Effects in Astronauts


Christina Koch in AntarcticaNASA Astronaut Christina Koch takes a frozen selfie at the South Pole on the continent of Antarctica.Credits: Christina Koch

A trip to the Red Planet begins long in advance of liftoff. NASA’s journey to Mars includes preparing astronauts to cope with several months of isolation, confinement, and in an extreme environment (identified with the acronym ICE). One of the best ways to study this on Earth is by observing others who also spend several months on actual ice in Antarctica.

NASA and the National Science Foundation (NSF), which manages the U.S. Antarctic Program, have a new collaborative agreement to study the effects of living in the polar environment.

In an initial research collaboration, a study developed and led by Dr. Candice Alfano, a clinical psychologist and associate professor at the University of Houston, will analyze people who work in Antarctica for long periods of time.

It’s relatively simple to place subjects in isolation or confinement for the purpose of studying mood and behavior, but the extreme environment element is harder to find.

Sometimes called “White Mars,” Antarctica is perfect because “you can’t walk off the ice. That goes for whether you’re having a health, behavioral health or a personal issue, you’re not going anywhere,” said Lisa Spence, project manager for NASA flight analogs in the Human Research Program. “That is very similar to spaceflight. It changes your mindset about how you are going to respond when you know you can’t leave.”

Training camp set up on the foot hills of Mt. Erebus near McMurdo Station in the Antarctic.

Training camp set up on the foot hills of Mt. Erebus near McMurdo Station in the Antarctic.Credits: NASA

Just how extreme is the extreme environment of Antarctica at the South Pole? Not only is 98 percent of the continent covered in ice, but it also has extreme winds and an average temperature range of minus 49 to 26 degrees, making it the coldest place on Earth. At the South Pole, the sun disappears for months at a time. Known as “The Polar Night,” the sun goes behind the horizon in late April and is not seen again until mid-September.

Once the sun is down, you could be stuck there. It is unsafe for airplanes or ships to travel to most parts of Antarctica during the winter because of the extremely cold temperatures and sea ice.

NASA astronaut Christina Hammock Koch has spent many seasons at various Antarctic and Arctic stations helping scientists conduct research remotely, including a year at the South Pole. “[This] means going months without seeing the sun, with the same crew, and without shipments of mail or fresh food,” she said. “The isolation, absence of family and friends, and lack of new sensory inputs are all conditions that you must find a strategy to thrive within.”

While certainly a difficult situation, Koch found ways to cope. She exercised, found hobbies, socialized with others in the station, and saved care packages to open at later times. She also said, “The most helpful strategy I developed was to avoid thinking about all the things I was missing out on and instead focused on the unique things in the moment that I would never get to experience again.”

These factors combine to create an atmosphere suitable for the NASA, NSF and UH study. The study, scheduled to begin in February 2017, will include approximately 110 U.S. Antarctic program volunteers located at the McMurdo and South Pole stations.

Map showing the locations of McMurdo and South Pole Stations on the continent of Antarctica.
Map showing the locations of McMurdo and South Pole Stations on the continent of Antarctica.

“McMurdo is a coastal station with a population of around 250 people during the winter, or the Northern Hemisphere’s summer. Evacuation, though difficult, is possible. In contrast, the South Pole is far inland near the center of the continent and can have temperatures of -100°F. Evacuation is simply not possible in winter,” Dr. Alfano said.

By studying volunteers from both stations, researchers hope to more precisely understand the greatest sources of stress. Volunteers will complete periodic computer-based questionnaires, provide saliva samples, and wear a monitor that records sleep and wake cycles. Researchers will use these collective tools to look for signs of stress and changes in psychological health of the volunteers during their time in Antarctica.

The plan is to refine and finalize a checklist to be used to “provide an efficient means of monitoring signs and symptoms that a behavioral condition may be developing. Therefore, allowing early detection and early intervention,” Lauren Leveton, Ph.D., of NASA’s Behavioral Performance team said.

This checklist will be useful to NASA in relation to future space travel, but Alfano points out it will have other applications as well, such as among deployed military personnel.

Simultaneously to Alfano’s study, the NASA and NSF partnership will deploy NASA clinical staff to Antarctica, which will give NASA’s medical personnel (flight surgeons) a unique chance to treat individuals in the extreme environment. Participating flight surgeons will be on rotation during summer or winter-over stays.

At the Johnson Space Center, NASA flight surgeons are on call around the clock for remote consultations with astronauts who are on International Space Station missions. Allowing these doctors to work in the Antarctic environment will give them additional training to call upon when consulting with the astronauts during future long duration, deep space missions, including the journey to Mars.

“The first-hand experience of living and working at McMurdo and the South Pole will be invaluable for the flight surgeons’ grasp of what astronauts encounter during long duration spaceflight,” Dr. Terrance Taddeo, Johnson Space Center Chief Medical Officer, said.

“This is a win-win,” Spence said. “Not only are NASA’s flight surgeons gaining a better understanding of the ICE environment of the astronauts they work with, but NSF’s Antarctic clinics will have additional onsite medical expertise.”

Alfano’s project, formally called “Characterizations of Psychological Risk, Overlap with Physical Health, and Associated Performance in Isolated, Confined, and Extreme (ICE) Environments,” will conclude following data collection during the 2017 winter season.

As NASA prepares for future human missions to Mars, keeping the astronauts safe on the journey is a top priority. The southernmost continent on Earth will provide researchers with the perfect analog for studying the behavioral health effects of an extreme environment.

Monica Edwards
Charles Lloyd
NASA Human Research Engagement and Communications



See ya in 30-days: HERA XII Mission begins


It is a jovial evening with family, friends, children, laughter, and of course…cake! The pizza sized countdown clock looms large in the background. In moments, four crew members will voluntarily lock themselves away in a modest two-floored habitat for 30-days, all in the name of advancing the science of space exploration.

The four of them are easy to spot amongst the 50 people in Building 220 at JSC who are there to watch the ingress. They are wearing black flight suits with name and mission patches. I find Todd Huhn, introduce myself, and ask him how he is feeling about the mission. “I’m excited and ready. The time away isn’t as concerning to me as completing all of the assignments scheduled for us. There are a lot of research investigations during this mission,” he said.

We continue our conversation when his wife walks by with a three-year-old in her arms. “I’m going to find a corner,” she tells him. He nods and explains to me that its time-out time for the little one. Then he points out to me his two other daughters who are running around with other children they met, all of whom are exploring this unusual place in which they find themselves.

I wish him safe travels and quickly find Mark Kerr, the other male of the two male/two female crew. Mark tells me he really likes the HERA website our Human Research Engagement and Communications team created, and explained how he used it to explain to his daughter’s class what he will be doing for the next month.

With twenty minutes left on the countdown clock we are summoned to the cake room for some last words of wisdom. Kraig Keith, Flight Analogs Deputy, declares the crew fully trained and qualified for the mission at hand. Flight Commander Ulyana Horodyskyj cuts the cake which depicts the Mission XII patch.

With less than five minutes to go, the crowd gathers near the habitat and makes a human pathway reminiscent of the parent tunnels formed at the end of soccer games. That’s when I notice one of the crew is missing. I scan the room to find Todd leading his wife and three daughters over to the side of the habitat. He squats to their eye-level and speaks to each one before giving them a hug and a kiss. Then he held his wife. The journalist in me was inclined to snap a photo. The human in me won out and decided to leave their private moment private.

Todd joins his fellow crewmembers and as the clock races down to 0:00, they jog through our makeshift tunnel and stop at the door to the vessel. With a traditional ringing of the bell, the HERA vessel is officially turned over to the crew by Patrice Yarbrough, HERA Principal Investigator, for their mission. She rings the bell three times for Campaign 3 and then another four times for Mission 4. Ulyana, Todd, Jonna, and Mark step inside the habitat. They wave one last time and the door is close.

There is an instant drop in the atmosphere of the room once the door closes. A sound absorbing padding is placed over the door and Building 220 seems silent and empty. “See yain 30 days,” I thought to myself.

Deep Sea for Deep Space: NASA Astronauts Train For Future Missions

Pictured at the end of Mission Day 1 are the NEEMO 21 aquanauts, clockwise from top: Matthias Maurer (ESA), Marc O Griofa (Teloregen/VEGA/AirDocs), NASA astronaut Megan McArthur, NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman, Dawn Kernagis (Institute for Human & Machine Cognition), and Noel Du Toit (Naval Postgraduate School). Inside the Aquarius habitat are Florida International University Habitat Technicians Hank Stark (left) and Sean Moore (right).
Pictured at the end of Mission Day 1 are the NEEMO 21 aquanauts, clockwise from top: Matthias Maurer (ESA), Marc O Griofa (Teloregen/VEGA/AirDocs), NASA astronaut Megan McArthur, NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman, Dawn Kernagis (Institute for Human & Machine Cognition), and Noel Du Toit (Naval Postgraduate School). Inside the Aquarius habitat are Florida International University Habitat Technicians Hank Stark (left) and Sean Moore (right).What do the bottom of a blue ocean and the surface of a Red Planet have in common? Both are extreme environments.


A group of astronauts, engineers and scientists ventured to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean on July 21 to prepare for future deep space missions and the journey to Mars. Isolation at the bottom of the ocean simulates life and work for astronauts in microgravity, making the 16-day mission an analog for future space exploration. They will test tools and techniques for future spaceflight and will conduct simulated spacewalks outside of their undersea habitat, Aquarius.

Inside Aquarius, the international crew will conduct a variety of research and operations studies, such as testing a mini DNA sequencer that NASA astronaut Kate Rubins also will be testing aboard the International Space Station, and a telemedicine device that will be used for future space applications. During their simulated spacewalks, the crew will collect samples for marine biology and geology studies, test software for managing operations, and participate in a coral restoration project. Throughout many of these tasks, the mission will also test communications delays similar to those that would be encountered on a mission to Mars.

“NEEMO 21 astronauts and crew will pioneer complex tasks on the seafloor utilizing the most advanced underwater navigation and science tools which are methodically choreographed to mimic a Mars exploration traverse,” NEEMO Project Lead Bill Todd said. “Equipment can fail, communication can be challenging and tasks can take longer than expected. Other tasks go just as planned. All cases are equally beneficial. It’s how we learn and how we are able to assemble all of this together so that someday we’re prepared for the unexpected when we are living on and traversing the Martian surface.”

NASA Astronaut Reid Wiseman will command the first eight days of the NEEMO 21 mission. Wiseman flew in space as part of Expedition 40/41 in 2014, spending 166 days living and working aboard the International Space Station. Wiseman was a naval aviator and test pilot prior to joining NASA in 2009.

NASA Astronaut Megan McArthur will command the second half of NEEMO 21, and will live in the habitat for the entire 16-day mission. McArthur flew on the STS-125 shuttle mission in 2009, and has served as a Mission Control spacecraft communicator for both space shuttle and space station missions. Prior to joining NASA, McArthur obtained a doctorate in oceanography at Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

Joining McArthur for the entire 16 days is ESA (European Space Agency) Astronaut Matthias Maurer. For the first eight days, Marc O’Griofa, chief medical and technology officer for Noninvasive Medical Technologies Inc., also will join Wiseman, McArthur and Mauerer. For the second half of the mission, McArthur and Mauerer will be joined by Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition Research Scientist Dawn Kernagis and Naval Postgraduate School Researcher Noel Du Toit.

The NEEMO crew and two professional habitat technicians will live 60 feet below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean in Florida International University’s Aquarius Reef Base undersea research habitat 6.2 miles off the coast of Key Largo, Florida. NEEMO 21 is supported by the Human Health and Performance Directorate at NASA’s Johnson Space Center with funding from ESA and partnerships with the Naval Postgraduate School, Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, Vega Telehealth, TeloRegen, and Johns Hopkins.

For more information about NEEMO, the crews and links to follow the mission on Facebook and Twitter, visit: www.nasa.gov/neemo.

For more information on other analog missions NASA is conducting, go to www.nasa.gov/analog

Image Credit: NASA/Karl Shreeves

Cavenauts explore CAVES to prepare for spaceflight

Last light before entering the caves. From left: Ricky Arnold, Ye Guangfu, Sergei Korsakov, Pedro Duque, Jessica Meir and Aki Hoshide. Credits: ESA–V. Crobu
Last light before entering the caves. From left: Ricky Arnold, Ye Guangfu, Sergei Korsakov, Pedro Duque, Jessica Meir and Aki Hoshide. Credits: ESA–V. Crobu

Held each year, CAVES teaches astronauts to explore the underground system of the Sa Grutta caves in Sardinia, Italy, as a team, delving deep underground to perform scientific experiments as well as chart and document their activities.

CAVES stands for Cooperative Adventure for Valuing and Exercising human behaviour and performance Skills. The two-week course prepares astronauts to work safely and effectively in multicultural teams in an environment where safety is critical – in caves.

The course is run by the European Astronaut Centre to simulate spaceflight. Seasoned International Space Station astronauts as well as rookies participate in the course and share experiences while learning how to improve leadership, teamwork, decision-making and problem-solving skills.

Behavioural training

Cave training

CAVES presents the astronauts with environments and situations very similar to spaceflight, to help them transfer the learning from their caving expedition to space.

Behavioural activities are woven into the course to foster effective communication, decision-making, problem-solving, leadership and team dynamics.

An important element of the expedition is the daily debriefing, which reflects on the successes and errors of the day, on similarities with spaceflight experiences and on how to reapply successful strategies or improve by learning from mistakes.

Learning is enhanced by the presence of experienced astronauts, who share their valuable flight experience with rookies.

2016 CAVES expedition

After six days in the Sa Grutta cave, all six crew members and the support team came out from underground. The 2016 Cavenauts were a truly international crew representing five countries. They are: Ricky Arnold, NASA astronaut from Maryland; Ye Guangfu, from the Chinese Space Agency; Sergei Korsakov, test astronaut for Roscosmos; Pedro Duque, European Space Agency Astronaut from Spain; Jessica Meir, NASA astronaut from Maine; and Aki Hoshide, JAXA astronaut from Tokyo.

Japanese commander Aki Hoshide on day 1 underground. Credits: ESA–V. Crobu

Japanese commander Aki Hoshide on day 1 underground. Credits: ESA–V. Crobu


On day 0, we entered the cave in the evening and moved to the “Witch’s Hat”, only a few hundred meters from the entrance. The next day (Day 1) was our first large progression to our main campsite through the Via Ferrata. The progression was technical, using all the tools we learnt to use during our training. We set up our tents, kitchen and toilet. The main campsite was to be our main home for the next few days.

On Day 2, we headed out to the 4th Wind Branch, which extended north from our campsite for approximately 1.1 km till the “Baikal Lake”.  The main objective of the day was to find an advanced campsite past “Baikal Lake”, which needed to have a water source close by, a good place to sleep (flat and soft, i.e. not on rocks!), and communication with the main campsite via radio. Once we found a suitable location, we returned to our main campsite, and returned to the advanced campsite the next day (Day 3). On the way we did more science and a survey of the area which we continued on Day 4 to explore further than our advanced campsite.

Exploring past lakes on day 5. Credits: ESA–V. Crobu

Exploring past lakes on day 5. Credits: ESA–V. Crobu

On Day 5, we started the trip in a different direction. From the main campsite we went south through the Lake’s Branch to Jericho Wall, about 2.4 km through lakes in wetsuits (very different from the first four days!). We found some life forms (!) in Monviso, and did some surveying at Jericho Wall to help make a more accurate map of the area. Day 6 was when we had to pack our gear and return to the ground, where we saw bright sunlight, smelled nature (other than rocks, sands, and ourselves), and were greeted familiar faces waiting for us just outside the cave entrance.

We have fulfilled our objectives to be safe, have fun, work together as a team and cover our science, survey and photogrammetry objectives. It was a privilege to have this unique opportunity that only a handful of people have experienced, and we are grateful for all who supported us throughout the expedition.

The CAVES 2016 expedition with a truly international crew from five different countries is now complete. But the underground adventure will continue…

To watch video blogs from each cavenaut on this expedition, click here.


From the ARC Science Back Room

By Kimberly Ennico, July 20, 2012, 43rd anniversary of “One small step, One giant leap”
I write this after the conclusion of our multi-day field demo of the RESOLVE payload. Prior to any activity, as with all organized operational tests, a clear set of success criteria is identified. RESOLVE, having being defined by NASA’s exploration and technology divisions, has the following goals:
CAT 1 Objectives (Mandatory):
  • Travel at least 100m on-site to map the horizontal distribution of volatiles
CAT 2 Objectives (Highly Desirable):
  • Perform at least 1 coring operation.  Process all regolith in the drill system acquired during the coring operation
  • Perform at least 1 water droplet demo during volatile analysis.
CAT 3 Objectives (Desirable):
  • Map the horizontal distribution of volatiles over a point to point distance of 500m.
    • Surface exploration objective is 1km
  • Perform coring operations and process regolith at a minimum of 3 locations.
  • Volatile analysis will be performed on at least 4 segments from each core to achieve a vertical resolution of 25cm or better.
  • Perform a minimum of 3 augering (drilling) operations
    • Surface exploration objective is 6 augers
  • Perform at least 2 total water droplet demos.  Perform 1 in conjunction with hydrogen reduction and perform 1 during low temperature volatile analysis.
CAT 4 Objectives (Goals):
  • Perform 2 coring operations separated by at least 500m straight line distance
    • Surface exploration is 1km
  • Travel 3km total regardless of direction
  • Travel directly to local areas of interest associated with possible retention of hydrogen
  • Process regolith from 5 cores
  • Perform hardware activities that can be used to further develop surface exploration technologies
At first glance, they are pretty much very operations based: 100 m (328 ft) here, 1 km (3,281 ft) there, three locations, three auger (drilling) ops, etc. They were the driving forces of this demo, no pun intended. Our main focus was to demonstrate the technology and the operations. However, as each day went on, you could hear on the voice loop the engineers asking more and more about what we scientists – those on site or in our “Ames science backroom” – were discussing and observing with each new scan, spectra, and image. Also, we actually found ourselves demonstrating science in this activity. That was the whole beauty of this project: science enabling exploration and exploration enabling science. Each team member, excited about roles played by others, united by our shared excitement in the concept of pushing our ability to explore beyond our home planet.
At the end of our field demo, we clocked 1,140 m (3,740 ft.) total in-simulation roving distance, 475 m (1,558 ft.) separation travel distance between hot spots, with total separation of traverses greater than 500 m. (1,640 ft.) We located nine hot spots, completed four auger operations, four drill operations, and four core segment transfers to the crucible (oven) for volatile analysis and characterization. We had seven remote operations centers plugged in to our central system. We logged 185,918 rover positions, collected 227,880 near-infrared spectra, 136,273 neutron spectrometer measurements, 139,703 drill measurements, 3,630 image data products, and wrote 2,446 console log entries.
Comparative band-depths show water abundance
(Left) Band-depth (a measurement of abundance) for a water band (at 1.5 microns) plotted for the whole simulation. Most of the water detected this way turned out to be “grass” in the spectrometer’s field of view, but we did rove over some pretty “dry areas.” Variety indeed. The red line shows our traverse path on July 19. (Right) Counts for the neutron spectrometer for the simulation. This aerial photo shows how we traversed over a range of geological features, a mixture of glacial (old outwash) and volcanic (olivine basalt) deposits. Image credit: NASA
While some of the ISRU technology demonstrations focused on pre-arranged drill tubes filled with pre-planned test materials, we were particularly excited to drill into the native tephra. Its saturated soil (up to 20%) is more consistent with the Mars surface rather than the lunar surface. If successful, this test also would show practical drill performance parameters for future Mars drill missions. The approved procedures allowed us to core down to a maximum of 50 cm (19.6 inches). We reached 45 cm in about 56 minutes. Then, instead of putting the sample into the oven, the core tube was “tapped” out onto the surface while the rover moved forward to lay out the sample for evaluation by the near infrared and neutron spectrometers. This was a new procedure developed jointly by the rover, drill, and science teams, which demonstrated a new way of extracting material and quickly evaluating it.
CSA's Artemis Jr. rover with DESTIN drill
Artemis Jr rover DESTIN (drill) acquiring sample from native soil. Image credit: NASA
Four images show the ARC

The Ames science backroom team, clockwise from top left: Erin Fritzler, project manager; Bob McMurray, system engineer; Kayla La France, intern; Ted Roush, scientist; Carol Stoker standing, scientist; and Jen Heldmann, scientist. Not shown: Stephanie Morse, system engineer; Josh Benton, electrical engineer; and me – Kim Ennico, scientist. With our team of nine people we staffed three consoles in two shifts, for eight-days.

Picture of two ARC team members at their consoles in Hawaii
Ames science team members in Hawaii. They were our main interface for the Ames backroom to the Flight, Rover and Drill teams, whose leads were in Hawaii, but whose support teams were at KSC in Florida, JSC in Texas, and CSA in Canada. Left to right: Rick Elphic, Real Time Science and Tony Colaprete, Spec. Photo by Matt Deans.

To end on a fun note: mid-way through the sim, I got my updated console request so I could monitor the neutron spectrometer and near infrared spectrometer simultaneously to look for correlations (this combination of techniques had never been done before). I spotted this one (image below) as we were roving about. Camera imagery had been down, so we were “in the dark” from visual clues. Upon seeing the two signals, I called out a strong hydrogen and water signal to the Science team in Hawaii over the voice loop.

Screengrab of one of my console screens. Top trace is the neutron spectrometer Sn counts showing a modest signal. Bottom traces are two different near-infrared water spectral regions that showed changes at the same time.
And it turns out we roved over this, a trench of water and a piece of aluminum foil reflecting the clear blue Hawaiian skies. The neutron spectrometer is designed to detect hydrogen at depth, whereas our near infrared spectrometer is more suited for surface water.
Image of a test target on the soil
A test target along traverse path for July 19. Image credit: NASA

This target, like others we traversed over the past week (buried pieces of plastic, netting, etc.) had been dug out in the wee hours of the morning by other members of the RESOLVE operations team. Good way to get a few hours exercise after being cooped up behind monitors!
So what’s next? A “lessons learned” exercise is called out for next week. The different teams wrote down our learning points daily when they were fresh in our minds. We will review them as a team and move forward with the next steps – building a version that works in a vacuum. And our Ames backroom science team has identified a few science papers to write. We are excited!
For more information about the In-Situ Resource Utilization analog field test and the RESOLVE experiment package, visit www.nasa.gov/exploration/analogs/isru

Camping vs. Settling

NASA is currently building the capabilities for long-term, deep-space human exploration. We know from experience on the International Space Station (ISS) that harnessing and recycling space resources increases mission flexibility, reduces payload mass requirements, and reduces risk to a crew who might otherwise be dependent on a cargo delivery. The ISS Water Recycling System, for instance, leverages local resources by recycling as much water as possible. It recycles urine from waste systems and even moisture from the air. This system is vital to continual operations because the cost of transporting all of the water needed for consumption and waste management is prohibitively expensive.

Image at right: Sitting atop the Canadian Space Agency’s Artemis Jr. rover, RESOLVE is an experiment package designed to find, characterize and map the presence of ice and other volatiles in almost permanently shadowed areas at the lunar poles.

Here in Hawaii, during NASA’s In-Situ Resource Utilization demonstrations, we are simulating a lunar robotic mission with the RESOLVE (Regolith and Environment Science and Oxygen and Lunar Volatiles Extraction) experiment package. It is designed to find, characterize and map the presence of ice and other volatiles on the moon. The last few days, the RESOLVE package, mounted on a Canadian Space Agency rover, has traversed the volcanic deposits of Hawaii’s Big Island and is using several science instruments to locate volatiles in the regolith, drill for samples, then characterize and separate the samples for processing.

Bill Larson, ISRU Technology Development Project Manager, explains how ISRU is a vital component of long-duration missions, offering the analogy of “camping vs. settling” at a destination.

For instance, when you’re camping, you bring canned and perishable food, bottled water, other temporary consumables, and batteries for your flashlight. When you are settling at a new location, you are likely to bring some perishables to sustain you in the beginning, but you’ll also bring buckets to gather fresh water, seeds for a garden, spices to flavor the food you’ll grow, and, instead of batteries, a reusable method of power generation.

In this analogy, you don’t need ISRU for a camping trip, but if you are going to settle a any destination in space and be productive, you need to be able to harness local resources to generate gases and metals for human consumption, building materials, and propellants.

For more information about In-Situ Resource Utilization, visit www.nasa.gov/exploration/analogs/isru.

NEEMO 16: Pitching and Rolling Topside

By Aquanaut Steve Squyres (Cornell University)

Onething we haven’t thought about too much on this NEEMO mission has been theweather and sea conditions. The reason is that they’ve mostly been so good.

Photo showing visibility during NEEMO 16Image at right: Squyres shows the underwater visibility with this image.

OnNEEMO 15, it was another story. The start of that mission was delayed by atropical storm, and we came out of the water early because of an approachinghurricane. The beautiful waters of the Florida Keys, which are known to diversfor their clarity, were a hazy green murk for most of the mission. We got thejob done in the time we had, but it wasn’t always pretty. Sometimes we actuallygot lost out there, trying to find our way through the fog.

Formost of NEEMO 16, conditions have been beautiful. You can see it in thepictures that have been posted online: clear water and good diving.

Well…that has changed a bit in the past 24 hours. I took a picture out the bunk roomwindow right before Tim and I headed out for our afternoon EVA, and you can seewhat it looks like… nothing but blue fog. The visibility is maybe 15 feetnow, and I think that’s being generous.

Imageat right: Aquanaut Steve Squyres in the wet porch of the Aquarius habitat.

Badvis is only part of the story. The real issue is the strong winds and big wavestopside. We can’t really see that from down here, but we can feel it. Thenumbers we’ve been hearing are 25-knot winds and 6 to 8-foot seas… seriousbusiness in a small boat. Down here we feel the “surge” a bit as thehabitat shifts position slightly, and the popping of our ears as each big wavepasses overhead. Up top, though, our hard-working support divers are pitchingand rolling in big waves for hours at a time, needing all the care they canmuster just to get in and out of their dive boats. Difficult stuff.

Thegood news is that the bad conditions aren’t keeping us from getting the jobdone. We’ve been down here more than a week, and I think we could almost findour way around out there with our eyes closed now if we had to. The surge movesus around a bit during our simulated spacewalks, but not enough to make adifference. If conditions had been like this right out of the gate, I think itwould have been a bit of a challenge. But with nine days under our belts, we’reable to keep on keepin’ on.

I’m still hoping thingswill get better tomorrow, though!

Learn more about NEEMO at www.nasa.gov/neemo.