After a tropical disturbance delayed mission start, threats from Hurricane Rina brought NEEMO 15 to an early end after just six days. NOAA, the agency that manages the National Undersea Research Center, made the decision to end the mission, with full NASA agreement and cooperation. The crew accomplished all of their objectives for the first six days, and the remaining activities will likely be rescheduled for 2012.
After a four-day delay, Mission Day 1 began with a mid-afternoon splashdown, followed by safety and orientation briefings to get the habitat crew oriented. In-water simulated extravehicular activities (EVAs) commenced on Mission Day 2, after brief delays due to technical issues – which are considered beneficial crew experiences during analog missions because they require teamwork and problem solving.
For the next few days, the habitat crew performed simulated EVAs, while the DeepWorker crew executed a series of science traverse activities, all with support from the CAPCOM crew in the Mobile Mission Control Center. The crews and support teams collaborated on Behavioral Health and Performance activities, using habitat tools and simulated communication delays.
The EVA, DeepWorker, and CAPCOM crews reported significant initial findings about traversing techniques and impediments, sampling tools, and communication methods. See NEEMO 15 Test Director Steve Chappell's topside reports for more details, initial findings, and lessons learned from each day's activities.
The Education and Public Outreach (EPO) Team was able to reschedule all but one EPO event following the four-day mission delay. For six days, they were a forceful presence online - conducting live aquanaut interviews with Challenger Learning Centers, the Miami Science Museum, Kennedy Space Center Visitor's Complex, and more. The team also kept NEEMO enthusiasts updated regularly through Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, USTREAM, and Flickr.
Bill Todd, NEEMO Project Lead in the Exploration Analogs Mission Development Team, commended the NEEMO team on accomplishing so much despite disruptions, "While shortened, this mission has been a great success. Over 50 percent of the EVA tasks were completed, and we are expecting lots of operations concepts and data to come from it." The team was also successful in completing many of its science objectives, he added, "The DeepWorker submersibles successfully operated all four days of the planned science traverses and fully completed their objectives. And JSC's Space Life Sciences Directorate had an extremely successful day of interior habitat science."
The next NEEMO mission is scheduled for late spring 2012 and will be a direct evolution of this mission. It will cover activities and objectives not completed in this mission and some new concepts based on what was already learned during NEEMO 15.