NEEMO 21 is now conducting operations under 15-minute communication time delay – including science and exploration dives! Due to the distance between Earth and Mars, communications can be between 4 and 24 minutes one-way, depending on the orientation of the planets. Aquanaut Dr. Marc O Griofa says “you are almost chasing the past, present & future all at the same time” while coordinating interactions between Mission Control and the crew. The goal is to figure the tools and protocols we need to effectively communicate under time-delayed conditions when astronauts explore Mars.
NEEMO 21 has an international crew, similar to the International Space Station. Our aquanauts this mission are from United States, Germany, Ireland and South Africa.
NEEMO 21 Aquanauts: Reid Wiseman (NASA), Megan McArthur (NASA), Matthias Maurer (ESA), Marc O Griofa (Teloregen/VEGA/AirDocs), Noel Du Toit (Naval Postgraduate School), Dawn Kernagis (Institute for Human & Machine Cognition), and FIU Habitat Technicians Hank Stark and Sean Moore.
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
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.
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.
FROM THE 2016 CAVENAUTS BLOG:
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.
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.
Astronauts, engineers and scientists will spend three weeks undersea off Florida
An Irish doctor has been selected by US space agency Nasa to monitor the health of six astronauts, engineers and scientists who are due to spend three weeks in an undersea research station off the Florida coast.
NUI Galway-based clinician Dr Derek O’Keeffe will apply his telemedical skills to check remotely on the wellbeing of the six aquanauts – one of whom is a fellow Irish man, Marc Ó Gríofa from Clonee, Co Meath.
Dr Ó Gríofa, who has a PhD in biomedical engineering, will live some 20 metres under the Atlantic Ocean as part of the Nasa extreme environment mission operations (NEEMO) project.
Dr O’Keeffe holds dual biomedical engineering and medical qualifications, and is an expert in remote monitoring technology, with experience in prior spaceflight and extreme environment missions.
He will oversee the physiological parameters of the six participants, and will run several staged health emergency events to help develop protocols on crisis response in remote conditions.
“The Aquarius habitat and its surroundings provide a convincing analogue for space exploration,” Dr O’Keeffe said.
“Nasa is also carrying out similar missions in other extreme environments, such as deserts, icefields and volcanoes around the world,” he said.
Telemedicine allows health care professionals to evaluate, diagnose and treat patients in remote locations using two-way video, email, smart phones, wireless tools and other forms of telecommunications technology.
Telemedicine is already being used for monitoring chronic disease at home, and it can also provide remote healthcare in “medically underserved” areas, he said.
Ultimately, monitoring of people with diabetic or cardiac conditions can pre-empt emergency hospital admissions, he says.
“Fast-forward 10 years, we would envisage that it would be the standard of care for patients to have home monitoring of physiological data for certain chronic diseases, and equally for all hospitalised patients to have continuous monitoring and remote review,” he said.
Dr O’Keeffe is due to give a public talk on telemedicine at NUIG’s clinical science institute on July 22nd, and will participate in a live public video-link with the aquanauts, who will take to their sub-sea environment from July 18th.
By Lorna Scoggins, The Irish Times
NASA and ESA are working with the British Antarctic Survey to study how humans survive conditions resembling a long duration spaceflight or staying on the Moon or Mars. Fortunately, there is somewhere on Earth where people are as isolated as astronauts – Antarctica.
During Antarctica’s long winter, people on the Concordia research station feel as if they are on another planet. There are sub-zero temperatures, it is difficult to breathe inland as the air is so thin, and some parts of the continent are cut off for months on end, leaving people isolated with no way home.
In this film ESA medical doctor, Beth Healey (who spent a year on the continent) uses a video diary format to describe what it was like to overwinter on the Concordia station. The psychological and physiological challenges are similar to those experienced by astronauts on the International Space Station and will help assess how people will perform on future missions to the Moon, Mars or beyond.
Look inside the habitat that four people will live in for 30 days!
The Human Exploration Research Analog (HERA) Mission 11 crew began their 30-day mission on July 11. HERA is one of several analogs used by the Human Research Program to research ways to help NASA astronauts move from lower-Earth orbit to deep space exploration. A spaceflight analog is a situation on Earth that produces physical and mental effects on the body similar to those experienced in space. During the 11th HERA mission, crew members will go through all the motions of a real deep space mission without ever actually leaving JSC’s Building 220.
To learn more about this HERA analog mission, click here.
To see Video Blog: https://www.facebook.com/NASA/videos/10154243373676772/
NASA’s Human Research Program launched Phase 1 of the NASA Analog Missions website, a site devoted to studies around the world that help prepare for long duration human spaceflight. With the website launch comes the resurrection of the NASA analogs blog, renamed “AnaBlogs.”
An Analog is a situation on Earth that produces affects on the body similar to those experienced in space, both physical and emotional. The site, www.nasa.gov/analogs is a one-stop website for all analog missions linked to NASA.
How real is an analog mission? Andy Self, Flight Analog Project operations lead at the Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston explained, “When we set up an analog research investigation, we try to mimic as many spaceflight conditions as possible. Obviously, they are not in microgravity, but confinement and the stress that goes along with spaceflight can be mimicked.”
NASA is associated with at least 15 analog missions throughout the world, including Antarctica, Germany, Russia, Canada, Florida, Houston, and Hawaii. The new webpage gives an overview of the analogs, including a description of the habitats and the types of research conducted, along with a link to each analog mission.
The Human Exploration Resource Analog (HERA) mission site shows a 360-degree photo of the outside and inside of the HERA habitat which is located at JSC . It also has photos from previous missions and tweets from current missions.
Details as to how to apply to be a crewmember, or test subject, for an analog research mission may be found on the “Want to Participate” page on the website. Researchers can find links to calls for research and instructions on how to submit proposals on the “For Researchers” page.
Future phases of the Analog Missions webpage will give more details for each analog, more 360-degree experiences, and more history and education on analog missions.
NASA’s Human Research Program enables space exploration by reducing the risks to human health and performance through a focused program of basic, applied, and operational research. This leads to the development and delivery of: human health, performance, and habitability standards; countermeasures and risk mitigation solutions; and advanced habitability and medical support technologies.
By 2012 Research and Technology Studies (RATS) crew member David Coan, an engineer with United Space Alliance at NASA’s Johnson Space Center
Mission Day 2 was an exciting day for the pilot in all of us. We changed plans up from our usual days of collecting rocks out on a “spacewalk” (Extra Vehicular Activity or EVA) to do some more challenging flying tasks. Our new mission today was to pilot the Multi-Mission Space Exploration Vehicle (MMSEV) down to several different asteroids that spin at a variety of rates. These asteroids varied from relatively easy, slowly spinning objects to ones that moved at rates such that the ground seemed to whiz by quickly underneath the spacecraft.
The Multi-Mission Space Exploration Vehicle (MMSEV) viewed from outside during the RATS simulated mission; video screens in front of the MMSEV windows project images of the asteroid as crew members pilot the MMSEV. Photo credit: NASA
Once we rendezvoused with our target on the ground, we had to manually pilot the MMSEV to station keep, or in other words hold the spacecraft in one small spot such that an EVA crewmember on the end of the arm could collect samples. Our station keeping goal was to keep the spacecraft to within a half meter of a given location. While that may sound easy, when the ground is moving quickly under you in unexpected directions, and you have limited visual cues out the windows, it becomes challenging to hold position in one spot. This is made even more complicated by trying to maneuver the spacecraft manually in all six axis (forward/back, left/right, up/down, roll, pitch, and yaw).
Once we completed our planned flying evaluations, we even had the opportunity to try out some potential techniques for holding the MMSEV steady at a worksite. This technique had us use a telescoping pole (‘stinger’) sticking out the front of the vehicle to help ‘stick’ us to the ground. Basically, we flew the MMSEV directly at the asteroid and pushed the ‘stinger’ into the ground, using light thrust to keep it buried. In theory, this would help us stay in one location, though the asteroid rotation rates made it challenging to stay balanced on our spacecraft sized pogo stick. But, it all made for a fun and exciting of day of piloting on an asteroid.
By 2012 Research and Technology Studies (RATS) crew member Trevor Graff (Planetary Geologist)
Although we are living and working within the Multi-Mission Space Exploration Vehicle (MMSEV) located within the Building 9 hi-bay of the Johnson Space Center (JSC), you would never know it from our perspective inside the vehicle. Our view out the windows of the MMSEV is a fantastic representation of the asteroid 25143 Itokawa. Surrounded by a high-resolution video wall that displays the asteroid in front of us, we are totally immersed in this simulated environment. Here inside the MMSEV, we use the displays, controls, and views out the windows to operate the vehicle within this amazing environment. One of the other great aspect are the sounds; not only are we surrounded by the whirl of electronics and communication systems, we can hear the simulated thrusters firing outside as we maneuver the MMSEV.
What’s really remarkable is that the shape, motion, and imagery of the asteroid Itokawa that we see out our windows are all derived from actual mission data from the Hayabusa mission. This spacecraft, developed by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), launched in 2003 and arrived at Itokawa in 2005. After a few months in orbit surveying and studying the asteroid from a distance, it landed and collected samples which were returned to Earth in 2010 (for more information on the Hayabusa mission see the JAXA website). Some of those samples returned from the surface of Itokawa are now located at JSC, just a short distance from where I currently sit in the MMSEV. For its support of the Hayabusa mission, NASA will eventually receive approximately 10% of the returned samples; the first 15 particles were delivered in late 2011. This material is curated at JSC and made available to the scientific community for research (get more information on these samples and their curation at JSC).
RATS crew members see a visualization of asteroid Itokawa from the windows of the Multi-Mission Space Exploration Vehicle (MMSEV). Photo credit: NASA
Itokawa is a stony (or S-type) asteroid that is shaped sort of like a potato. Its length is approximately five football fields long; the actual dimensions are 535 x 294 x 209 meters. It has been described as a rubble-pile, and looking at it from our view in the MMSEV I can see why. It has a very rough rocky appearance with many large boulders perched on the surface; there are also a few areas where it appears smooth. From the data collected during the Hayabusa mission, we know that Itokawa has a low bulk density and high porosity – indicating that it is likely made up of material previously broken up by other asteroid impacts that loosely reformed to make Itokawa as we see it today.
Viewing screen showing the Itokawa asteroid simulation. Photo credit: NASA
Exploring and learning about an asteroid utilizing data from a robotic precursor spacecraft, as we are during this year’s RATS test, is exactly the strategy that we would likely use to eventually send humans to an asteroid in the future. This analog test and others like it are a great step in achieving that goal. As great as this view is today within this simulation, the view and knowledge we would get from sending humans on an actual mission to an asteroid in the future will be spectacular.