NEEMO 14 Mission Day 3

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

Mission Day 3 was another great day for NEEMO 14! Chris and Steve once again set out for the morning extravehicular activities (EVAs) and then Tom and Andrew teamed up again in the afternoon. We tested a different center of gravity (CG) location and ran through the same movements and tasks from Mission Day 2.

Support divers

Support divers setting up the CG rig on the crew for testing.

During Mission Day 3, the ETag team achieved one of their primary objectives on the NEEMO 14 mission. They successfully demonstrated realtime telemedicine monitoring from the Aquarius habitat back to the NEEMO 14 mission control center. This developmental technology is being used to pioneer next-generation medical monitoring by using the ETag diagnostic platform to monitor people in a variety of extreme environments, starting with the NEEMO 14 mission.

The ETag is a small, credit-card-sized, radar-based medical device that is worn on the chest. The core of the technology is the TAP (Transducer Antenna Probe) which uses RFII (Radio Frequency Impedance Interrogation) to passively gather medical data from the aquanauts. It was originally developed for combat casualty care, and is now being used to monitor the aquanauts on board Aquarius.

As the aquanauts continued their NEEMO 14 mission, the ETag doctor was able to medically monitor them from land. This was the first successful technology demonstration of the mission, and a giant step forward in the potential of telemedicine. The data collected from the aquanauts includes heart rate, respiration and position. The ETag also collects the environmental temperature surrounding each aquanaut.

Andrew and hab techs

Aquanaut Andrew and the Aquarius hab techs sporting the ETags.

We had another video crew on site for education and public outreach: Blair, Ron, and Don from NASA EDGE! They talked to several members of our topside team, and talked directly with aquanauts Tom and Steve in the Aquarius.

NASA EDGE interview

NASA EDGE crew interviewing astronaut Tom Marshburn inside the mission control center.

One of our aquanauts, Andrew, had his birthday on Mission Day 3. The topside crew sent down several goodies for him to open, including a birthday sign, hats, a card, and a few games that the crew can play in their (little) down time. During our evening tag-up meeting with the crew, we were able to sing him happy birthday! What an awesome way to spend your special day: doing EVAs 63 feet under the Atlantic Ocean, paving the way for future exploration and being one of the elite few to have the opportunity to live in the Aquarius habitat.

NEEMO team

The NEEMO team, consisting of two astronauts, a veteran undersea engineer and an experienced scientist and two NURC hab techs.

NEEMO 14 Crew Journal,Mission Day 3

Steve Chappell

Steve Chappell gets ready for his dive.

Orbits:

The crew was able to celebrate two different kinds of orbits today (May 12) simultaneously. We helped Andrew (Abercromby) celebrate the completion of his 30th trip on the Earth around our Sun. And, thanks to the topside support’s surprise delivery, we even had ice cream and party hats after dinner to celebrate his birthday.

We also were able to link up with the International Space Station in orbit around the Earth and talk with Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Soichi Noguchi and NASA astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson. We marveled at the ability to link up fellow explorers in space with us at the bottom of the ocean.

It was particularly special to patch Soichi through to Andrew and Tom (Marshburn) who were out on EVA (extravehicular activity) developing ways to send humans out into the solar system, as if they were phoning home from the surface of an asteroid, moon, or planet. It brought a great perspective and served to further remind us of the amazing expedition we are on both as aquanauts and as we work to help the human race expand into the universe.

– Steve

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.

NEEMO 14 Crew Journal,Mission Day 2

Cmdr. Chris Hadfield

Cmdr. Chris Hadfield during training

Mission Day 2
Life and Depth

Steve (Chappell) and I were outside on a spacewalk when the underwater weather changed, like a cold front blowing through. The visibility and temperature instantly dropped and I had to bring my arms in close to stay warm. The chilly water even looked different, like a wavering fluid prism.

I redoubled my concentration on my assigned tasks, but after a while I really started to notice where I was. A camouflaged little Goby fish got spooked by a bottom feeder, and a dozen bigger fish gave chase as he got away. A large Ray felt the cold water coming and flew past, like a bird on the wind. A Crab with an off-center knobby shell hobbled clumsily by, bound for some personal destination.

We are definitely aliens in this world, six recently-landed outsiders who don’t belong. Yet a local Goliath Grouper came into our wet porch and presented himself for attention, like a pet cow. His whole 200 lb body wriggled with pleasure.

As I type this I can hear crunching sounds as a parrot fish bites off the growth on the other side of Aquarius’s metal hull.

We got lots of excellent research done today on spacesuit design and human-machine interface, but it was the interaction with life that I liked the most.

– Chris

For additional photos of the crew, visit our Flickr site.

NEEMO 14 Crew

Outside Aquarius are, from left, Commander/CSA Astronaut Chris Hadfield,Andrew Abercromby, NASA Astronaut Tom Marshburn, and Steve Chappell.Inside Aquarius are habitat techs James Talacek and Nate Bender.

NEEMO 14 Mission Day 1

Heather Paul
By Heather Paul
Analog Lead Technical Liaison for Education and Public Outreach
Currently in Key Largo, Florida!

What an exciting day! The mission is officially a GO!

The Mobile Mission Control Center was buzzing as the mission support team awaited the crew’s departure… We waved from the dock as the boat pulled away to send the NEEMO 14 crew to their underwater home for two weeks. After all of the equipment and supplies were brought down to Aquarius by the support divers, the crew took one last look at the sky and sun, and then DOVE down to the 60 foot depths!

It was cool to watch the Aquarius webcams, which show views of the inside and outside of the habitat… For a while we saw only fish (and a LOT of them), but then suddenly we saw our NEEMO 14 crew!

NEEMO 14 Crew

The NEEMO 14 Crew. Outside the Aquarius from left to right: Commander/CSA Astronaut Chris Hadfield, Andrew Abercromby, NASA Astronaut Tom Marshburn, and Steve Chappell. Inside the Aquarius: Habitat Techs James Talacek and Nate Bender.

The crew entered the hab, and the first order of business was to get unpacked, oriented in their new home and perform communication checks between the Aquarius and the topside crew supporting the Mission Control Center. After a quick lunch, it was time to get to work.

Working inside operations

Steve Chappell working inside operations during Mission Day 1.

Performing communication checks

(L) Aquarius Crewmember Andrew Abercromby and (R) Habitat Tech Nate Bender performing communication checks with Mission Control.

Commander/CSA Astronaut Chris Hadfield and Steve Chappell were the first crewmembers to kick-off the extravehicular activities (EVAs) for the mission. During their excursion, they performed dives to become familiarized with the SuperLite dive helmet, various experiment mockups and the surrounding environment that they will be working in over the next two weeks.

Superlite helmet

Up close and personal with the SuperLite helmet.

Reviewing procedures

Crew familiarization of surroundings, procedures and mockups during Mission Day 1.

Once the first EVA was complete, NASA Astronaut Tom Marshburn and Andrew Abercromby ventured into the depths of the ocean to perform the same familiarization tasks and prepare themselves for the major EVA tasks ahead.

Following the EVAs, the crew members were able to get back into their new home to complete their reports, eat some spaghetti and relax for the next big day!

NEEMO 14 Crew Journal,Mission Day 1

Took two glances at the sky as we bobbed behind the dive boat before splashing down. Last view of clouds and blue sky for two weeks.Then the team swam down and along the dive boat, until the Aquarius habitat loomed below us.

One’s first entry into the habitat is met with echoes and deep booming as you stand up out of the water in the metal entry lock. You’re standing in our entrance to the ocean, in a still pool that rises and falls with the surge at the ocean floor, rhythmically sucking the habitat air and burping it outside, or squeezing the air like a piston until your ears pop. The entry lock is a metal box adjoined to the living quarters – you climb a metal staircase to meet our hab techs Nate and James, who have spent most of the day preparing for our arrival.

We rinsed and dried off in a tiny shower at the top of the staircase, found our personal belongings in the small bunkroom, and after a quick lunch of nuts, canned meat, and tortillas, prepared for our first EVAs.

One is constantly distracted and amazed by the new sights and sounds. The view out the windows show a limitless blue, with passing fish always in your periphery. My head was on a swivel for the first few hours, unused to the movement and light in the windows.

You also hear clicking and snapping, like the popping of bubble-wrap, all around you. That’s shrimp and parrot fish feeding off the outside of the habitat.

After two “EVAs”, we are now well-fed and getting ready for the next day’s activities. More on the EVAs tomorrow.

NEEMO 14 Training Day 4 and Pre-Mission Weekend Activities

 


Heather Paul
Analog Lead Technical Liaison for Education and Public Outreach
Currently in Key Largo, Florida!

 

Training Day 4 marked the last full day of training for the NEEMO 14 crew.  The crew, along with our mission manager, Bill Todd, and our photographer/support diver/man of many talents, Karl, dove down to the mockups for further orientation with the lander and rover.  They conducted an “engineering evaluation,” which basically means that they ran through some of the underwater operations to become more familiar with how to do the tasks, and to see if there were any changes that needed to happen to make things go more smoothly during the actual mission.  The rover mockup has been upgraded to include free-spinning wheels, and an interesting finding during the engineering evaluation was that the wheels are so buoyant, when they tried to move the rover up to the lander deck, the buoyancy of the wheels threw off the balance of the system, making it harder to control than we originally imagined!  The rover mockup is really awesome, especially with the new wheels, so stay tuned to see how we work with it over the course of the mission! ☺

 
Our crew runs through the steps to lift the rover from the sea floor to the lander deck.

Topside, the mission support team got their first view of the inside of the Aquarius habitat as the hab techs continued to do checkouts to ensure that everything was ready for the mission.  Our Mobile Mission Control Center is fully equipped with computers and screens throughout, and our awesome comm. team connected us to the Aquarius camera views provided by NURC so that we can observe all of the underwater activities.  (You too can look at these by going to: http://www.uncw.edu/aquarius/thumb_cam.htm!) 

After a very long day of training and preparation tasks, Training Day 4 came to a close with a deep sigh of relief from the team…It was a VERY busy Friday!

The weekend continued to be a flurry of activity as the final hours prior to the mission ticked away.  The crew spent several hours practicing how they will do real-time communication during the extravehicular activities (EVAs).  While two Aquanauts are outside of Aquarius on EVA, the other two crewmembers will be very busy inside the habitat taking data to ensure that all of our science and engineering objectives are successfully completed.  This sounds easy at first, but the communications get pretty complicated when you think about four people trying to talk to each other at the same time.  So, the Commander and crew sat down and walked through their communication strategy, really coming together as a TEAM.  The crew also walked through each day of the mission timeline, to make sure that they were all ready for every task that the topside support team would throw at them! ☺

Sunday evening we met once again as a full team, topside support and crew, to run through any final details of the mission.  There were only a few things left to be worked, but overall we were ready.  When I left the Mobile Mission Control Center, I felt both anxious and excited…this mission is going to be REALLY AWESOME!  The team has planned an incredible mission full of fantastic activities that are educational, scientific, and in line with NASA’s exploration goals. 

WE ARE GO FOR NEEMO 14!


 
The mission support team is topside in Key Largo, working inside NASA’s Mobile Mission Control Center to track the NEEMO 14 mission activities.
 

NEEMO 14 Training Day 3

Training Day 3 was an exciting day for the crew…it was time to put classroom training to the test as the Aquanauts proved that they could complete equipment setup, checkouts, and dives with the Superlite helmet and equipment. They teamed up (Chris and Steve, Tom and Andrew) and worked through their procedures to practice the very tasks that they will need to complete each day when they conduct their underwater extravehicular activities (EVAs).

Checking helmet connections

Chris looks over Steve’s helmet connections to make sure that everything will work when Steve is underwater.

Superlite helmet

Tom makes sure that Andrew’s helmet is ready for the dive. The Superlite helmet fits very tight to your head and has a mask that fits over your nose and mouth. The helmet allows you to breathe normally underwater and has a full communications system so that you can talk back and forth with your dive buddy.

Topside, our team of NURC divers and mission support divers were taught how to move the arms and weights on the center of gravity (CG) rig. This is the equipment that the Aquanauts will wear during several of their EVAs, as they test how changing the location of weights on your back changes how you move. In the afternoon, a crew of divers went out to the dive site to set up the “circuit,” which is basically an underwater obstacle course where the crew will do things like kneel, pick up and move rocks, shovel, and do other tasks that NASA envisions that crewmembers will have to do on surface exploration missions.

CG rig

This is the CG rig that the Aquanauts will wear while evaluating how changing the location of weights on your back alters how you move. The NURC divers are learning how to move the arms of the CG rig up and down to change where the weights will be placed during underwater testing.

It was a beautiful day for diving… the water was calm, the visibility was amazing, and the crew successfully completed their Superlite checkout dives!

Successful checkout dive!

Heather Paul
By Heather Paul
Analog Lead Technical Liaison for Education and Public Outreach
Currently in Key Largo, Florida!

NEEMO 14 Training Day 1

NASA’s Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) 14 is officially under way! The mission doesn’t start until next Monday (5/10), but the mission support team and crew are busy at work in Key Largo this week completing final preparations, checkouts, and crew training. Yesterday the crew and a few others (including me!) completed a swim test at a local pool, and then it was off to the open water so that the crew could complete their SCUBA checkout and exploration dives.

More information to come as we get closer to the big event! Stay tuned…

Heather Paul
By Heather Paul
Analog Lead Technical Liaison for Education and Public Outreach
Currently in Key Largo, Florida!

NEEMO 14 Training Day 2

Training Day 2 was a classroom day for the crew, and another big prep day for the mission support team. This is one of the most complex NEEMO missions to date, so, as much as the team loves to be in the water, classroom training, getting hands-on practice with the equipment while topside, and solid mission planning is all very critical for mission success!

Crew training

The crew training focused on procedures, equipment checkouts, and fitchecks. Basically, it’s like they were back in school as they learned about the equipment they will use during the mission and how it all works. During their underwater “spacewalks”, they will wear special dive helmets called “Superlites” that allow you to breathe and speak normally. They also worked through emergency procedures, discussed communication operations, and made sure that their dive suits and vests fit properly. In addition, the crew learned about the “CG rig” and how it will be used to test how changing the location of weight on your back alters how you move and work.

Having good procedures is an important part of any mission, whether that mission is in space, or under water. For the mission support team, finishing the mission procedures was the focus of training day 2. We also did a bit of housekeeping, as we continued to set up the communications trailer to be our “mission control center.”

A few of the folks from the mission support team (including me!) also learned how to drive a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) in the canal by the NURC facility where we are stationed. We will use an ROV during the mission as part of our science exploration activities, but also a few lucky schools will help us navigate the underwater world during some of our education events! Driving the ROV was really fun, and a bit like playing a video game…I was very proud that I was able to navigate around, and I even retrieved a piece of trash and brought it to the surface! (That’s me, cleaning up this world one piece of debris at a time…it all counts you know!)

Training ROV
The training ROV
Jack driving underwater
Jack is driving underwater!

This is really going to be an awesome mission…the crew is pumped, the mission team is excited, and there’s a feeling in the air as the clock ticks on and counts us down to Monday’s splashdown. If you haven’t checked out our pictures yet, make sure to stop by our flickr page!

On to training day 3….

Heather Paul
By Heather Paul
Analog Lead Technical Liaison for Education and Public Outreach
Currently in Key Largo, Florida!