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

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.