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!

Haughton Mars Project (HMP): Sea-Ice Traverse

From 5 – 8 May 2010, the Mars Institute’s Dr Pascal Lee and his teammates Joe Amarualik, John W. Schutt, Jesse Weaver, Jean-Christophe Jeauffre, and Mark Carroll will be completing the Northwest Passage Drive Expedition. They will be journeying from Resolute Bay, Cornwallis Island, to the Haughton-Mars Project Research Station, Devon Island, High Arctic, aboard the Moon-1 Humvee Rover, a simulator for future pressurized rovers that will be used in long distance human exploration on the Moon and Mars.

Follow their scientific odyssey here as they drive a final 200 km across the Arctic, including the critical 35 km stretch of rough sea-ice separating Cornwallis Island from Devon Island.

For more information and to follow this awesome journey, check out the following sites:

Amanda Knight
By Amanda Knight
Analog Technical Liaison Support for EPO NASA/JSC

The 2010 Field Testing Season Begins!

Hello Blogosphere! 



Rocky Lind   
Information and Communications Coordinator   
at NASA Headquarters   

If you are reading this Blog, then you have an interest in what NASA is doing in preparation for sending humans into deep space to explore, work and live. 

Throughout the North American continent and beyond, we have teams conducting what are called “analog field tests.”  The simple definition of the word analog is “something similar or relating to,” which means we are testing in locations that we have found to be similar or related to the surfaces we expect to encounter on other planets or asteroids.

Believe it or not, this testing has been around since the Apollo days and now we are taking it to the next level.

Analogs mapWe have teams testing and training next generation vehicles and life systems in the arctic deserts and lakes of Canada; deep beneath the surface of the ocean near the Florida Keys; on the side of a dormant volcano in Hawaii; and in the dry, dusty deserts of Arizona.  Read more about the teams at  

Each team has a different mission profile but they are all working to better prepare for long-duration spaceflight and long-term stays on surfaces remote and distant from Mother Earth.

Our goal is to give you a close and personal look at each of these tests as they happen and help you connect the dots in what we think is a pretty cool story.  From time to time, different members of different teams will post here so don’t be surprised to see a post from an engineer on the side of a volcano followed by a post from an educator in the desert where we test rovers.  It could be any of us!

The first analog field test of 2010 began on May 1 with the Sea Ice Traverse.  The test is being conducted at Haughton-Mars Project Research Station (HMPRS) on Devon Island, Canada. The high arctic outpost is on the world’s largest uninhabited island. The team faces a challenging journey across 200 km of frigid, snow-covered arctic barrens, including the critical 35 km crossing of rough sea-ice filling the Wellington Channel. 

That’s it for now.  More posts to come (and a few below from our previous Desert RATs blog) and plenty more ways of keeping up with our teams at

What are dry runs and why are they an important part of Desert RATS?

Dry runs are  a critical aspect of any Desert RATS analog field test.  After the objectives of this years field test were established, each team went to work on their aspect of the project.  Engineers created solutions such as PUP, the Portable Utility Pallet.  This device has stowage space, geological evaluation tools, and even a wireless mesh network repeater.  As the field test approaches, each subsytem needs to be fully tested and evaluated.  Sometimes this is as simple as a functionality test, however it can expand into finding ways to improve durability, usability, and even things such as ergonomics.

Changes have also been made based on lessons learned from previous outings.  The new automated suit ports will simplify exiting LER.  Software such as the navigation system have been overhauled for ease of use and increased functionality.

In the end the goal is a successful analog field test.  This goal can only be met by insuring each subsystem has been integrated and tested.  Desert RATS is about working together to achieve a goal that is unreachable independent of each other.  Valuable lessons are learned here on Earth so that these systems are ready for the missions of the future.The Desert RATS is a NASA-led team of research partners working together to prepare for human-robotic exploration. This “working group,” led by NASA personnel, is comprised of both NASA and non-NASA Members.

The Desert RATS field test activity is the culmination of the various individual science and advanced engineering discipline areas year-long technology and operations development efforts into a coordinated field test demonstration under representative (analog) planetary surface terrain conditions. The purpose of the RATS effort is to drive out preliminary exploration operational concepts for EVA system requirements by providing hands-on experience with simulated planetary surface exploration extravehicular activity (EVA) hardware and procedures.

Suit Ports

LER Suit Port

The Lunar Electric Rover (LER) is equipped with a time and space saving concept called suit ports.  The suit ports are located on the aft bulkhead of the LER, and are designed to allow astronauts to quickly go from driving in a shirtsleeve environment to Extravehicular Activity (EVA) in their space suits.  The suit port will allow the crew to enter and exit their EVA suits via a rear-entry hatch, while never having to bring the suit inside, keeping the internal cabin mostly free of dust.  The suit port will also minimize the loss of consumables when it is depressurized for EVA, extending duration of an LER sortie.  The crew uses alignment guides for docking to the suit port, and electromechanical mechanisms to lock and unlock the suit in place and also to open and close hatches.  This is an upgrade from last year’s suit port concept that used all mechanically-actuated mechanisms with levers that the crew had to move.  This suit port concept also includes an environmental shelter for the suits that will protect them from dust, thermal extremes, and micrometeoroid protection.