NEEMO 14 Mission Day 8

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

Mission Week 2 brings a new set of challenges to NEEMO 14, as we have switched to “delayed communications,” similar to what we would do if the crew was living on Mars. We are simulating this by sending and receiving emails with a 20-minute delay. We are also recording video messages each day to send to Aquarius in response to the crew’s video to the topside team. Aside from that, the crew is completely responsible for keeping the mission timeline on track and ensuring that the extravehicular activities (EVAs) are completed successfully and according to plan.

Lifting the exploration vehicle

During Mission Day 8, the crew began the task of lifting the exploration vehicle from the ocean floor with the large crane.

Today’s EVAs kicked off with Steve and Andrew in the morning, and Tom and Chris in the afternoon. More center of gravity (CG) positions were evaluated today. The visibility was a bit better, but as Commander Chris Hadfield described in our last live morning meeting with the crew for the week, the view out of the porthole window looked like there was a “blue fog” outside. Our diver support team was relieved that the sea conditions resulted in only 2-4 foot waves (compared to last week’s range: up to 8 feet). You can imagine that it’s a lot more fun to be underwater when the seas are that rough!

Divers gather for a photo

Any type of extreme mission requires many aspects of support, from mission control, scientists, doctors to support divers. Our divers gather around the exploration vehicle for a photo op.

Today was also a big day for education activities as the Aquarius crew connected to several schools through NASA’s Digital Learning Network programs. These programs were webcast live on the internet, but, if you were not able to check them out… don’t worry! We’ve uploaded them all to our YouTube site.

Astronaut Tom Marshburn was interviewed by Ronnie Crownover Middle School (Corinth, TX), Stephen F. Austin Middle School (Bryan, TX), Space Center Intermediate (Clear Lake, TX), McMillan Junior High (Wylie, TX), Travis Elementary (Baytown, TX), and The Harry Eichler School (Queens, NY) during the morning EVAs.

Astronaut Tom Marshburn speaks

Astronaut and aquanaut Tom Marshburn speaks to hundreds of children during a live webcast events on Mission Day 8.

Students chat

The Harry Eichler School’s fifth grade students were amazed as they connect to Houston and to the Aquarius to chat with Astronaut Tom Marshburn.

Aquanaut Steve Chappell spoke with students from Magnolia High School (Magnolia, TX), Northwest High School (Justin, TX), Kadoka Middle School (Kadoka, SD), Dunbar Middle School (Lubbock, TX), Cole Middle School (Lancaster, CA) and Key Peninsula Middle School (Lakebay, WA).

Check out what the students had to say on the NEEMO 14 Facebook page.

During our evening debrief, we waited to receive the crew’s video briefing of the days events and questions they may have. As the video began rolling, each crew member was wearing a different silly hat… and if they didn’t have a hat, they made one out of whatever was laying around the habitat. They concluded the debrief with a challenge to the Mission Control Center support staff to be more creative than they were.

So, to finish up our evening, we all put on snorkeling masks and snorkels. At first, during the video, we were are very seriously and intently working away… until the Little Mermaid music broke into the background and we all put on a show. It was a great way to end a very long day! And it is such a pleasure to work with professionals who know when it’s time to let loose… just a little.

NEEMO 14 Crew Journal: Mission Day 6

Settling In

We’re nearing the halfway point of our mission, settling into a comfortable routine. The habitat technicians start the day, awakening to check the health of our underwater home, and we all soon rouse to begin our daily regimen.

We first breeze through our life sciences data takes so we can begin breakfast. The process for six crewmembers on a small vessel begins to resemble a small school of fish – a loosely choreographed activity as we swerve around each other writing email, preparing coffee, eating granola, and cleaning little spots and spills. Saying “excuse me” or “sorry” is becoming needless. Small collisions are so common in such close living quarters – they become unavoidable, expected, and barely noticed. One crewmember at a time steels himself and departs for the inevitable plunge into the deep ocean for a trip to the “outhouse,” to return to the team, smiling and refreshed.

Amazingly, the activity at once converges, and all crewmembers are ready for the morning conference with the topside. We then disperse again as we prepare for the first extravehicular activity (EVA), each preparing for our roles for the task, and like a single organism, again converge with all attention focused on the suiting up of our EVA duo.

Our attention remains welded to the checklist, video cameras, and communication protocols, until several hours later when both crew members are back inside and we prepare hot meals and drinks. The vigorous physical labor and successful completion of good work are essential elements of a good day. More science, more writing, perhaps a nap, before the second set of EVAs. End of the day is a mirror image of the beginning, with dinner replacing breakfast, and activity slowing as we contact friends or families, and perhaps take some time to muse about life out the window. The habitat technicians are the first to prepare for sleep, and then one-by-one the crew members retire their laptops, lay down their notes, turn off their night lights, and fall asleep to the surge and sway of the ocean.

NEEMO 14 Mission Days 6 and 7

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

On Saturday, mission day 6 (MD6), the NEEMO 14 crew completed another day of extravehicular activities (EVAs) and mission activities. Once again we experienced rough sea conditions that affected the visibility underwater, which was limited to approximately 15 feet. The strong currents definitely impose a greater fatigue on the crewmembers as they perform their underwater tasks. In addition, the aquanauts are loaded with different weight configurations, some of which make tasks easier to perform, and others, more difficult.

Aquanauts team on the lander

Aquanauts team together on the lander surface while preparing for CG rig evaluations.

The mission activities improve with each mission day as the crew and mission support teams learn how to work together as a team… communication is good, and the EVAs are moving effectively, safely and on schedule.

Aquanaut and flag

Despite rough sea conditions, complete isolation from the surface and close quarters, the aquanauts are still excited to be participating in the next generation of technology development.

As the official part of mission day 6 came to a close, the aquanauts set out on their own underwater adventure… a night dive!

Night dive

During mission day 6, the aquanauts were able to suit up with lights added onto their helmets and perform a night EVA.

Chris and Andrew

Chris and Andrew are hanging out in the Aquarius galley as Tom and Steve perform their Saturday evening EVA.

Mission day 7 was a rest day for the aquanauts and topside teams. Rest was much needed as mission week 1 came to a close and we prepped for mission week 2: destination Mars!!! As of mission day 8, the NEEMO 14 team will begin working the mission with delayed communications to simulate the communications delays we would experience if the crew was on Mars. The objective of this activity is to simulate how to run a mission when the crew is on a surface so far away, that they cannot speak to the mission control personnel in real time. Stay tuned for more details and keep checking our Flickr and Facebook pages for more NEEMO 14 pictures and information!

NEEMO 14 Mission Day 5

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

What a way to spend a Friday… Mission Day 5 was another great day for NEEMO 14 as the Aquanauts tested another center of gravity (CG) configuration under water and performed cargo lander-based tasks and evaluations! Chris and Andrew went outside in the morning, and Tom and Steve were out in the afternoon.

CG rig configuration

During this CG rig configuration and activity, the crew is tasked with picking up rocks from one location and transferring them to another location.

CG rigs

The CG rigs have three primary configurations which will be evaluated during this mission. Located on the back of the rig are the pictorial representations of these configurations. During their tasks, the crew is not aware of the exact characteristics.

The murky pictures above represent the harsh sea conditions. At times during Mission Day 5, the wind was so severe above the ocean surface, that it affected the operations of the crew; for example, the crew had to stay tethered to the lander at all times. Some of the wind gusts were even vertical! Also, the exploration vehicle was tethered and tied down throughout the day.

The topside crew and aquanauts were all very excited about the launch of Shuttle mission STS-132… it’s fantastic to be running an analog mission here in the Florida Keys while NASA launches a crew into space! Make sure to follow the mission activities at The aquanauts had the opportunity to watch the last planned launch for the shuttle Atlantis while they were preparing for their second extravehicular activity (EVA) of the day.

Space shuttle Atlantis launch

Space shuttle Atlantis lifted off from Launch Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on the STS-132 mission to the International Space Station at 2:20 p.m. EDT on May 14.

During our evening tag-up meeting with the crew, Chris shared with the team that his first launch into space was actually on the Atlantis – which made watching this launch an especially meaningful mission to him. Not only was he blessed with the opportunity to perform a mission on the Atlantis, but from the depths of the Atlantic Ocean, he was able to view its potential last launch.

Chris and Tom conducted several interviews with the media, including CBS Smart Planet, Universe Today, Discovery TV’s “The Daily Planet” and the Globe and Mail newspaper.

As most folks prepare for the weekend, our NEEMO 14 crew looks to another day of EVAs and mission activities on Saturday, Mission Day 6, and then they’ve got a much-deserved rest day on Sunday!

NEEMO 14,Crew Journal,Mission Day 5

Chicken Under the Sea

There is so much to enjoy about living in Aquarius. For now, let me tell you a little about the food.

The four members of our crew who had not previously lived in Aquarius went to a café for a great cooked breakfast on the day that our mission was to begin. We wolfed down eggs, bacon, hash-browns, grilled tomatoes, toast, orange juice, and coffee. Although excited about the “splash-down” that would happen a few hours later, we all agreed that we’d likely consume fewer calories during the mission and probably lose some body mass. I mean, how good can the food really be when you’re living under the sea? Turns out we needn’t have worried. Within minutes of our arrival in Aquarius we were chowing down on a tub of cocoa-roasted almonds and we’ve not stopped eating since.

If you look at the webcam of the Aquarius mainlock you will see some shelves running along the wall above the galley and table on the right. This is where the food lives. Most of it is freeze-dried and you just add hot water directly into the bag, leave it for a few minutes, and then eat it with a spoon right out of the bag. Easy. Too easy. And then there are pouches of meat, freeze-dried fruit, hot chocolate, nuts, chips, and candy bars galore. The green tub in Chris’s hand is the cocoa-roasted almonds.

While James will opt for a 6am Beef Teriyaki, my breakfast of choice is freeze-dried granola and blueberries. In fact, it’s so good that I’m considering having some for dinner tonight. The spaghetti and meat sauce is particularly good with a generous topping of mozzarella and, of course, you can never go wrong with a thousand calories of mac and cheese. We even got a huge delivery of blueberry cheesecake and chocolate covered espresso beans, today!

Our outstanding habitat technicians, James “It says it serves four but I can eat one all by myself” Talacek and Nate “I don’t share food” Bender, never hesitate to offer suggestions on how to make a perfectly good meal even better. Whether you are making breakfast, lunch or dinner the suggestion will invariably involve adding copious amounts of chicken, hot sauce and/or cheese to whatever you are currently eating. And they are usually right. The only disappointment is that I’ve not managed to make a good pot of coffee, yet. And no matter how many times Nate suggests it I am not going to put chicken in my coffee.

– Andrew

Hot sauce and chicken

Hot sauce and chicken – don’t even try making a meal in Aquarius without them.

Nate with a plate of food

Food is a source of enjoyment for our crew, and particularly for Nate.

NEEMO 14 Mission Day 4

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

Mission Day 4 EVAs were REALLY cool… In the morning, Chris and Steve braved the stormy seas, and Tom and Andrew followed in the afternoon. We’ve had high waves topside and the crew can definitely feel the movement of the ocean both within the Aquarius and while outside doing their underwater excursions.

The focus of today’s extravehicular activities (EVAs) was to simulate operations with the various mockups that are underwater. One of the mission objectives is to test the size of the mockups, to make sure that there is enough space available for astronauts to move around and do the work that they need to do without bumping into equipment, or having difficulty. Space is a valuable commodity on exploration missions… there must be enough room to allow the astronauts to do their work, but the more space you add, the heavier the equipment and the harder it is to get that equipment off the Earth’s surface and to your destination. We have several mockups underwater that are “volumetric representatives” of NASA’s early surface exploration equipment designs, meaning that they are correct in size and shape: an exploration vehicle, lander, and ascent module.

Ascent module

Looking down on the ascent module atop the lander.

Volumetric representatives

The “volumetric representatives” of the exploration vehicle, lander and ascent module.

This setup allows the crew to move around and work within the mockups to test the operations aspects of our exploration mission activities. The crew commented at the end of the day that these were the most realistic EVAs that they’ve done on the mission so far, and that it really seemed like they were doing exploration activities… how cool!

The Aquanauts worked with the ascent module and airlock mockups, moving between them to evaluate “ingress” and “egress” (how to go in and how to go out), and they moved small payloads into the airlock. They did several tests to evaluate how you would help an injured crewmember get back to safety. They lifted a “crewmember mockup” from just below the lander deck to the lander floor and into the airlock, testing different lifting methods. They did similar activities on the ocean floor, testing how to lift a hurt crewmember up to the rover, ensuring that they could align the life support system with the hatch.

Entering ascent module

Aquanaut Andrew entering the ascent module while wearing a mock-up life support backpack.

Assisting crewmember mockup

Aquanauts assisting crewmember mock-up to exploration vehicle suit port.

NASA Edge was onsite today and captured a few more interviews with our topside team, and they talked to Aquanauts Andrew and Chris! During Chris’s interview, he was asked about his guitar and his passion for playing. He had a special, collapsible guitar made to take with him during his stay on the International Space Station (ISS)… and he was able to take it on this mission stay, as well. Sounds like the crew may get together this weekend for a rock session.

Have you seen the latest pictures from the NEEMO 14 mission? Check them out on Flickr!

NEEMO 14,Crew Journal,Mission Day 4

Be sure to check out the photos on FLICKR:



Sea Hear


Living under the ocean, my eyes keep turning to the windows. The round ports glow with translucent pastel blue fog, a parade of fish flying endlessly through. I can’t help thinking I’m somehow on the wrong side of an aquarium.


Even more different, though, is what we hear. A loud constant crashing of sounds with the volume going up and down, as if someone kept turning the control knob. That’s because it’s stormy overhead, and as the waves pass over the pressure goes up and down and our ears nearly pop. Every time I swallow it gets louder and then quieter.


The Aquarius habitat regularly burps, a low deep gurgling rumble when the new fresh air pushes the old out under the edges of our Wet Porch. We send a huge roaring white bubble to the surface. Inside, the fans make a constant whirring hum, blowing clean oxygen into every corner and filtering the carbon dioxide.


There are 6 radios and phones, all ringing and echoing in metallic, distant voices. Andrew’s spacewalking voice comes tinnily through a small speaker. The technical suit-up conversation in the Wet Porch snaps with equipment clanking and feedback, as Nate gets Tom’s helmet safely attached.


And somehow it’s like Darth Vader is everywhere, his deep, machine breath going forever in and out. It’s actually from the spacewalkers, as their voices are mixed with every inhale and exhale, a simple reminder of how hard they are working.


The smallest sound is from the fish themselves, as they nibble and bite at the green-brown growth on the outside. Their beaks must be strong, since they make such a harsh and purposeful scratching noise. The bits they spit out fall past the window, a shower of lumpy wet dust.


My ears are under assault, but my eyes are drawn to the sea.


Chris (Cmdr. Chris Hadfield)

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 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.