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FEATURE
NEEMO 9 Mission Journal

Mission Day 7
Sunday, April 9, 2006


JSC2006-E-13624 -- A NEEMO-9 crewmember participates in a session of extravehicular activity. Image to right: A NEEMO-9 crewmember participates in a session of extravehicular activity. Credit: NASA

Dave Williams:

Dawn dive - I awoke at 5:45 a.m. in anticipation of our dive this morning. Half asleep, I had a quick bite of oatmeal and got changed into my cold wetsuit. There is nothing quite like the transition from a warm bed to a cold wetsuit to wake you up in the morning!

We started our dive brief at 6:15 and climbed down the steps of the wet porch into the dark water to get into our equipment. In addition to our regular gear, we brought flashlights and both a video and still camera to photo-document the underwater sunrise. Tim led us down the Kamper excursion line followed by Ron and Nicole. I followed, watching the orange Cyalume safety light sticks on their tank manifolds glowing in the swirling dark mist. We went to the 75-meter marker that Ron and I had placed last week and attached our cave reels to the excursion line so that we could safely find our way back as we turned toward the reef to the southeast.

We stopped in a patch of pure white sand, illuminated by the dancing beams of our flashlights and settled between the coral heads to watch the sunrise. Hundreds of small silvery fish were swimming around me scattering the light of the sunrise. Our bubbles floated towards the surface leaving silvery trails illuminated from above. It reminded me of the beautiful sunrises and sunsets that I saw from the space shuttle, which occur every 45 minutes as we orbit the earth every 90 minutes. Once the sun was up we went to the Kamper station to refill our tanks and continued our dive on the adjacent reef. At 8:45 we swam back to the habitat but were unable to enter as our topside divers were bringing in supplies and it would be too crowded on the wet porch. Instead, we proceeded out the Northeast excursion line and refilled our tanks, returning to the habitat at 9:15 to finish our two hour and twenty minute dive.

We were pretty excited talking about the dive and the great photos that we took but quickly dressed to start setting up the robot for the tele-robotic surgery experiment with Dr. Mehran Anvari. With all of us working together we had the bunk room converted to an operating room with the robots in position for Mehran to repair an incision in a piece of simulated tissue. Working with a latency of close to a second, Mehran demonstrated his world class surgical skills by deftly suturing the wound. Later, he performed a similar task with a two-second delay. It was a very impressive demonstration of skill and new technology that will change the face of surgical care.

Tele-surgical procedures challenge traditional concepts, by demonstrating the reality of operating rooms without walls -- where surgeons can use their skills combined with advanced technology to treat patients at a distance. It gives me great pride to know that Canada is a world leader in the telecommunications and robotic technology that enables surgeons to challenge the geographic barriers to health care and improve access to care in remote communities. The application of Canadian space robotic technology has produced Neuroarm, a neurosurgical robot used at the University of Calgary and future surgical robots are being developed based on Canadarm II technology.

We finished the day with video-teleconferences with our families and it was great to see the kids and their excitement seeing fish out the viewing port beside our galley table. It has been a tremendous day and I am looking forward to getting to bed early. Tomorrow will be a busy day with multiple dives and ROV operations as well as the science inside the habitat.


Ron Garan:

Today is Palm Sunday and a very appropriate day to conduct our dawn dive. Dave, Nicole, Tim, and I departed from Aquarius before sunrise. We proceeded to the South and found a nice spot on the reef to observe the change in sea life as the environment transitions from night to day. The sea life was spectacular; we saw a spotted eagle ray fly by a few feet from us. We also spotted an Atlantic stingray that had buried itself in the sand for the night. The only part of the ray sticking out above the sand was its eyes and tail. Nicole took a lot of still pictures and I shot a lot of video.

When we got low on air we proceeded further south to a glass dome called Kamper which we swam into and filled our tanks. It’s interesting to swim up into a glass dome on the bottom of the ocean in 90 feet of water, take your mask off, talk to Aquarius and top off your tanks. All in all we were outside for two hours and it was a very rewarding experience. When we returned to Aquarius, we hustled out of our gear and began transforming our bunk room into a robotic surgery suite complete with a state of the art surgical robot.

We spent the rest of the afternoon teleconferenced in with the investigation team from Canada. Dr. Mehran Anvari sutured a simulated patient in Aquarius via the surgical robot in our converted bunkroom. It was the first time a robotic surgical operation was performed undersea and the first time a robotic operation was performed with a time delay similar to the delay communicating from the moon.

The highlight of the day was definitely seeing Carmel and the boys in a video family conference. It was great seeing and talking to everyone. Tomorrow is Ronnie and Joseph's birthday so I'll end here so I can get their sign ready.


Nicole Stott:

Our Sunday was pretty action packed. We started with a beautiful dawn dive. We were in the water for a little over two hours starting from about 6:30 a.m. We went out armed with our flashlights, glow sticks and cameras, and had a really nice time watching the sun rise through the water. It was very interesting to watch how the different sea life seemed to cycle their times for waking up. When we first went out there seemed to only be little fishes awake -- and there were a lot of them. The bigger fishes started to gradually show up about an hour after we were out. We saw a really large Atlantic stingray sleeping in the sand and a big school of large barracuda swimming over us as we made our way back along the excursion line. We spent some time relaxing on the bottom at about 80 feet, just watching as the sun got brighter above us. It seemed to me that this was a really appropriate way to spend Palm Sunday morning.

When we got back to the habitat things really got rolling with the set up of the surgical robot in the bunk room. Once the robot was set up and the communication network was established, Dr. Mehran Anvari (located at a hospital in Hamilton, Ontario) proceeded to manipulate the robot arms to perform suturing on a simulated patient. This was a medical first because not only did he perform the procedure from a remote location, he also successfully performed the procedure with a two-second delay in the communication/video signal that he was receiving as his only reference for the procedure. This is really amazing stuff. As this type of system becomes more robust and proven, it promises to support providing advanced medical treatment for people in remote locations both on and off our planet.

The day just got better when we all were able to talk to our families on a videoconference. It was so nice to be able to see them for a little while and to have a chance to catch up "in person." The video hug I got at the end really topped it all off!


Tim Broderick:

Sunday, a day of rest. Well, maybe not. We woke at 5 a.m. for our dawn dive so we could be in the water before sunrise. We were sitting on the bottom in 80 feet of water when the sun rose. Peaceful and serene. Thanks to three way station tank refills, it was also a long dive of 2 hours, 15 minutes. Beautiful early morning sea life and sun at both Kamper and Northeast-- especially at Northeast.

As soon as the dive was over, we quickly converted the bunkroom into a robotic telesurgery lab. Today saw the first underwater robotic telesurgery as well as the first time a surgeon remotely sutured at two-second latency. Based on our telementoring and telesurgery over the last few days, it looks like we can provide medical support from the Earth to a lunar base. As we had a few technical challenges related to the network and the robot, I am really excited to do some more robotic telesurgery on Tuesday. We also will use the same robot for lunar sample exploration as well.

Despite the dawn dive and lunar delay telesurgery, the highlight of the day was our private family conferences-- called PFCs in NASA-ese. The crewmembers talked to their family via videoteleconference. The kids were very funny, talking to their parents playfully as the rest of the crew went about their business all around the habitat. The crew would chime in as work would bring them into view. As my girls were in the midst of a family party, I talked to them on the phone around dinner. All is well, all understand the importance of this mission, but it is still hard on the family. Erin and Caitlin were enjoying an early Easter egg hunt and alternated giddy from chocolate and sugar with sad from missing their daddy. Instead of eggs, Maggie's first two teeth popped in today. She will have changed quite a bit in the month I have been gone.

Lots of yellowtail snapper, eagle ray, grouper, barracuda, angels -- lots of fish. I am starting to recognize some familiar faces and they are starting to recognize us as well. Our friends on the reef.

Busy day again tomorrow. Cannot believe we are almost halfway through the mission ….

  ISSUE ARCHIVES 
 
 NEEMO 9 Mission Journal Number 15
"The barracuda seemed particularly impressed with this new structure and hovered around the truss element facing into the current! "
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 NEEMO 9 Mission Journal Number 14
"Scuttle bunny was flying around the reef at quite a pace with test pilot Ron at the controls."
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 NEEMO 9 Mission Journal Number 13
"But what a sight after we turned off our lights. Bioluminescent creatures ... lit up the sea around us."
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 NEEMO 9 Mission Journal Number 12
"We're sitting at the galley table writing our journals and as usual we're distracted by the beauty out the galley view port."
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 NEEMO 9 Mission Journal Number 11
"As the sun began to set in the world above, I swam into the wet porch feeling very much a resident of the reef."
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 NEEMO 9 Mission Journal Number 10
"It was pretty exciting to me to be here living and working on Aquarius on the 25th anniversary of STS-1."
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 NEEMO 9 Mission Journal Number 9
"As I write this a large sea turtle just decided to park its belly on our main view port (where I'm presently sitting)."
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 NEEMO 9 Mission Journal Number 8
"This marks the first time in human history an entire robotic surgical platform was transported to an extreme environment ... and was manipulated successfully from afar."
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 NEEMO 9 Mission Journal Number 6
"The EEG net leaves a particularly attractive series of marks on the subject's head-- looks like we have been kissed by an octopus."
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 NEEMO 9 Mission Journal Number 5
"It's ... incredible to watch the sunset from 47 feet beneath the surface."
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 NEEMO 9 Mission Journal Number 4
"Today was a day filled with outreach events, both 'educational' (to school children) and 'public affairs' (to media)."
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 NEEMO 9 Mission Journal Number 3
"One of the highlights of the day was our videoconference with Jeff Williams and Bill McArthur on the International Space Station."
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 NEEMO 9 Mission Journal Number 2
"Today at 10:38 a.m. Ron Garan, Nicole Stott, and Tim Broderick joined an elite group of people in this world who have spent 24 hours under the sea in 'saturation,' making them the world's three newest aquanauts."
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 NEEMO 9 Mission Journal Number 1
"I'm looking forward to my first night of 'sleeping with the fishes.'"
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 NEEMO 9 Training Journal Number 6
"The mission as planned will be the most complex and longest NEEMO and Aquarius mission to date."
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 NEEMO 9 Training Journal Number 5
"It was an interesting experience talking to one another and looking out the windows into the ocean while standing on the bottom at 60 feet!!"
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 NEEMO 9 Training Journal Number 4
"Ross ... intentionally swam Nicole and I around in circles to try and get us lost. He did a pretty good job!"
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 NEEMO 9 Training Journal Number 3
"The pace is beginning to pick-up with more diving tasks being added every day."
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 NEEMO 9 Training Journal Number 2
"On our way out, we saw a pod of dolphins which started following the boat and leaping out of the waves."
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 NEEMO 9 Training Journal Number 1
"Today was our first day of training in our final week before the mission."
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