Chronicles from Concordia with Beth Healey – Part 1: The Induction

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One of the most hostile environments for an analog is Concordia located more than 600 miles from the coastal stations of Antarctica. Many researchers use this facility to study psychology, physiology, and medicine. Some mission crewmembers perform a winter-over where they are part of research lasting the entire winter, which in Antarctica is nine months.

Beth Healey, a 28-year-old medical doctor from London, spent 14-months at the Concordia Station ending in January 2016 as a European Space Station researcher. She recently began posting reflections about the experience. Here are a few excerpts from her blog and a link to Part 1: Chronicles from Concordia.

Stepping out of the plane was like stepping out on another planet…There is a reason Concordia is often referred to as “White Mars”. There are no penguins or seals there, no native animals, let alone native people. The bright light of the 24-hour Sun reflected off the snow is blinding. My labored breathing was not out of physical exertion, but caused by the high altitude – as if we had been up on a summit of the Alps. Except for our group, the place was completely still and ghostly silent.

Part 1: The Induction:

I am 28 years old and like what many girls my age do – shopping and getting a good haircut, and I don’t mind a nice spa treatment once in a while. These features are generally not considered well suited to life in a polar environment. However, I do not see why that has to be the case (although admittedly shopping may have to wait, spas will be run on a very individual basis and a decent hairdresser may be the last of your preoccupations at -80C). It is true, I am not built for minus 80 degrees cold, but then, who is really? So why should not I, Beth Healey, go polar for real?

HERA 11 patch inspired by Apollo 11 patch

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The 47th anniversary of Apollo 11 takes place during the Human Exploration Mission Analog (HERA) Mission 11. The Apollo 11 mission left the first human footprints on the moon. HERA 11 takes us one small step closer to making footprints on Mars.

This historic event was not lost on the HERA 11 crew. In designing their mission patch, they drew strong parallels with the Apollo 11 mission patch. They used the symbolism of Apollo 11 to reflect the role of the HERA in advancing human exploration while recognizing the contributions of prior programs on our journey to Mars.


Aquanauts experience communication delays

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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.

International Aquanauts

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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.

13708365_1230178287001586_948191410753892981_oNEEMO 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.

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

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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:

For more information on other analog missions NASA is conducting, go to

Image Credit: NASA/Karl Shreeves

Cavenauts explore CAVES to prepare for spaceflight

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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.


NASA selects Irish doctor to monitor aquanauts

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Astronauts, engineers and scientists will spend three weeks undersea off Florida

NASA astronauts carry out simulated space manoeuvres on the ocean floor during a previous NEEMO expedition. An Irish doctor has been selected 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. Photograph: NASA

NASA astronauts carry out simulated space manoeuvres on the ocean floor during a previous NEEMO expedition. An Irish doctor has been selected 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. Photograph: NASA

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

Antarctic Astronauts

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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.

HERA Mission XI is Underway; Look Inside the Habitat

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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:



NASA Launches New Analog Missions Webpage

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NASA launches new Analog Missions website

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, 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.

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