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2012 Research and Technology Studies Resume at JSC
Picture of the Multi-Missioni Space Exploration Vehicle (MMSEV), shown in the

A mock Multi-Mission Space Exploration Vehicle (MMSEV) is shown in the "flying" configuration, mounted on an air sled, moving across the air-bearing floor.

NASA’s Research and Technology Studies (RATS) team will conduct its 2012 testing events in two phases. The first phase is further separated into two, three-day parts, conducted at Johnson Space Center’s (JSC) Building 9.

The first part of phase 1 took place Dec. 13-15, 2011; the second part of phase 1 began Jan. 18, 2012, and will also last three days. This phase will focus on determining functionality and habitability of the Multi-Mission Space Exploration Vehicle (MMSEV). The MMSEV has a flexible architecture, allowing it to rove on a planetary surface atop a wheeled chassis, or fly in space using advanced in-space propulsion systems.

For three days and two nights during the Dec. and Jan. simulations, the two-person crews will live, work, eat, sleep, and exercise in the MMSEV cabin, housed in JSC Building 9. Throughout the day, they will trade responsibilities as EVA (extravehicular activity) and IV (intra-vehicular) crewmembers. During the EVAs, the crews will perform a variety of simulations that future crews could potentially conduct on a mission to a near-Earth asteroid, using the suitports on the aft end of the MMSEV to exit the vehicle.

Picture of Virtual Reality Laboratory (VRL), an immersive training facility that provides real time graphics and motion simulators.

The Virtual Reality Laboratory (VRL) is an immersive training facility at NASA's JSC.

By executing Phase 1 at JSC, the RATS team is able to use a medley of tools and simulators that would be difficult to transport to a field test location. The Air Bearing Floor, for instance, is a key technology that will allow the crew to test the MMSEV in the “flying” configuration on an air sled, rather than as a rover on wheels. A virtual reality lab will provide an immersive environment for the EVA crewmembers, integrating real-time graphics with crewmember motions and kinesthetic sensations of large objects – an asteroid in this case. The Active Response Gravity Offload System (ARGOS), a crane-based, reduced-gravity system, will allow crews to conduct activities in simulated microgravity. And the air chair will allow the crew to perform simulated EVAs on a jet pack.

Keep up with the RATS team and crew activities on Facebook and Twitter.

The Crew - Dec. 2011

Michael Gernhardt Michael L. Gernhardt (Ph.D.), NASA Astronaut, Manager of Environmental Physiology Laboratory and Principle Investigator of Prebreath Reduction Program

Personal Data: Born May 4, 1956, in Mansfield, Ohio. He enjoys running, swimming, flying, fishing, and scuba diving. His father, George M. Gernhardt is deceased. His mother, Suzanne C. Winters, resides in Whitestone, Virginia.

Honors: NASA Space Flight Medals (4); Exceptional Service Medals (2); Exceptional Achievement Medal (1), Distinguished Service Medal (1)

Education: Graduated from Malabar High School, Mansfield, Ohio, in 1974. Received a Bachelor of Science degree in physics from Vanderbilt University in 1978, and a Master of Science degree and a doctorate in bioengineering from University of Pennsylvania, in 1983 and 1991, respectively.

Organizations: American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA); Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society; Sea Space Symposium; Aerospace Medical Association.

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Experience: From 1977 to 1984, Gernhardt worked as a professional deep sea diver and project engineer on a variety of sub sea oil field construction and repair projects around the world. He has logged over 700 deep sea dives and has experience in air, mixed gas, bounce bell and saturation diving. During his diving career Gernhardt attended graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania and developed a new theoretical decompression model based on tissue gas bubble dynamics. He then participated in the development and field implementation of a variety of new decompression tables.

From 1984 to 1988, Gernhardt worked as Manager and then Vice President of Special Projects for Oceaneering International. During this time he led the development of a telerobotic system for sub sea platform cleaning and inspection as well as a variety of new diver and robot tools. In 1988 he founded Oceaneering Space Systems, a company formed to transfer sub sea technology and operational experience to the ISS program. From 1988 until his selection by NASA in 1992, he worked on the development of new astronaut and robot-compatible tools for performing maintenance on Space Station Freedom. He also worked on the development of new portable life support systems and decompression procedures for extravehicular activity.

NASA Experience:

Dr. Gernhardt was selected by NASA in March 1992, and reported to the Johnson Space Center in August 1992. Technical assignments to date include: flight software verification in the Shuttle Avionics Integration Laboratory (SAIL); development of nitrox diving to support training for the Hubble Space Telescope repair and on a variety of Space Station EVA developments; member of the astronaut support team at Kennedy Space Center, Florida, responsible for Shuttle prelaunch vehicle checkout, crew ingress/egress; spacecraft communicator (CAPCOM) at Mission Control Center, Houston, during various Shuttle missions; lead an international research team in developing a new exercise prebreathe protocol that improved the safety and efficiency of space walks from the ISS. Gernhardt presently serves as a member of the astronaut office EVA branch, Project Scientist of the EVA Physiology System and Performance Project (EPSP), Manager of JSC's Environmental Physiology Laboratory, and Project Manager of the Small Pressurize Rover project.

A four flight veteran, Dr. Gernhardt has logged over 43 days in space, including 4 spacewalks totaling 23 hours and 16 minutes. He was a mission specialist on STS-69 in 1995, STS-83 in 1997, STS-94 in 1997 and STS-104 in 2001. Additionally he was crewmember on the NEEMO (NASA Extreme Enviroment Mission Operations) One, and Commander of the NEEMO eight multi-day underwater missions. He also served as a submersible pilot on the Pavilion Lake Expedition focused on exploring a deep water lake in western Canada where unusual life forms called microbiolites have very recently been discovered.

Space Flight Experience: STS-69 (September 7-18, 1995) whose prime objective was the successful deployment and retrieval of a SPARTAN satellite and the Wake Shield Facility (WSF). The WSF was designed to evaluate the effectiveness of using this free-flying experiment to grow semiconductors, high temperature superconductors and other materials using the ultra-high vacuum created behind the spacecraft near the experiment package. Dr. Gernhardt was one of two astronauts to perform a spacewalk to evaluate future Space Station tools and hardware, logging 6 hours and 46 minutes of EVA. Mission duration was 260 hours, 29 minutes, and 8 seconds, traveling 4.5 million miles in 171 orbits of the Earth.

STS-83 (April 4-8, 1997) the Microgravity Science Laboratory ( MSL-1) Spacelab mission was cut short because of problems with one of the Shuttle's three fuel cell power generation units. Mission duration was 95 hours and 12 minutes, traveling 1.5 million miles in 63 orbits of the Earth.

STS-94 (July 1-17, 1997) was a re-flight of the Microgravity Science Laboratory ( MSL-1) Spacelab mission, and focused on materials and combustion science research in microgravity. Mission duration was 376 hours and 45 minutes, traveling 6.3 million miles in 251 orbits of the Earth.

STS-104 (July 12-24, 2001) was the 10th mission to the International Space Station (ISS). During the 13-day flight the crew conducted joint operations with the Expedition-2 crew. Dr. Gernhardt was one of two astronauts to perform three spacewalks to install the joint airlock "Quest" (including the first US space walk from the ISS) and to outfit it with four high-pressure gas tanks. The mission was accomplished in 200 Earth orbits, traveling 5.3 million miles in 306 hours and 35 minutes.

Picture of Geologist Brent Garry. Courtesy Planetary Science Institute. Brent Garry (Ph.D.), Geologist, Planetary Science Institute
Dr. Garry joined PSI in 2010 as a Research Scientist after completing a Post-Doctoral Fellowship in the Center for Earth and Planetary Studies at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum. He finished his Ph.D. at the University at Buffalo, New York (2006) and holds a B.S. in Geology from the College of William and Mary, Virginia (1999) and an M.S. in Geology from the University of Kentucky (2001).

The focus of Dr. Garry's research is on the emplacement of lava flows on Earth, the moon, and Mars. His current research projects primarily focus on lunar volcanism and studies of lava flows in Hawai'i and New Mexico. As a member of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) science team, he is studying the formation of long lava flows in Mare Imbrium and the formation of the largest lunar sinuous rille, Vallis Schröteri. Recently selected as a Participating Scientist on the Dawn Mission, he will help unravel the volcanic evolution of the Asteroid Vesta.

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In addition to volcanoes, Dr. Garry is interested in the human exploration of space. This passion was fostered by watching space shuttle launches in the early 1980's while living in Florida and also working as a counselor at Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama in 2000. Dr. Garry is a science team member for NASA's Desert RATS which tests space suits, vehicles, and tools. During the 2008 and 2009 field tests, he served as the crew geologist on a lunar mission simulation where he lived inside the Lunar Electric Rover (LER) (a.k.a. Space Exploration Vehicle) for 3 days and 14 days, respectively, out in Arizona. When not in the field, Dr. Garry enjoys SCUBA diving, watching movies, and teaching kids about space exploration.

The Crew — Jan. 2012

Astronaut Al Drew. Benjamin Alvin Drew, JR. (Colonel, USAF, Ret.)
NASA Astronaut

PERSONAL DATA: Born November 5, 1962 in Washington, DC. His parents, Muriel and Benjamin Drew, Sr., reside in Fort Washington, Maryland.

  • 1980 High School Diploma from Gonzaga College High School in Washington, DC.
  • 1984 Bachelor of Science in Astronautical Engineering from the United States Air Force Academy.
  • 1984 Bachelor of Science in Physics from the United States Air Force Academy.
  • 1995 Master of Aerospace Science from Embry Riddle University.
  • 2006 Master of Strategic Studies in Political Science from the United States Air Force Air University.

ORGANIZATIONS: Society of Experimental Test Pilots, American Helicopter Society.

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EXPERIENCE: Upon graduation from the United States Air Force Academy, Drew entered the U.S. Air Force as a Second Lieutenant in May 1984. He completed Undergraduate Helicopter Pilot Training - at Fort Rucker, Alabama, earning a helicopter qualification and his pilot wings in March 1985. His initial assignment was as a combat rescue helicopter pilot from 1985 to 1987. In 1987, he transitioned into USAF special operations. There flew 60 combat missions in operations over Panama (1989), the Persian Gulf (1990-1991) and Northern Iraq (1991-1992). In 1992, he returned to flight training – first obtaining a rating in jet aircraft in April 1993, and then, becoming a test pilot, at the United States Naval Test Pilot School in June 1994. He subsequently worked as a project test pilot, commanded two flight test organizations, and served on the U.S. Air Force’s Air Combat Command staff. As a Command Pilot with more than 25 years experience, Colonel Drew retired from the Air Force in September 2010.

He has more than 3,500 hours flying experience and has piloted 30 different types of aircraft.

NASA EXPERIENCE: Selected as a mission specialist by NASA in July 2000, Drew reported for training in August 2000. Following the completion of 2 years of training and evaluation, he was initially assigned technical duties in the Astronaut Office Station Operations Branch. From January-November 2009, he served as Director of Operations at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia. He has logged more than 612 hours in space on STS-118 in 2007 and STS-133 in 2011.

SPACE FLIGHT EXPERIENCE: STS-118 (August 8 -21, 2007) was the 119th space shuttle flight, the 22nd flight to the station, and the 20th flight for Endeavour. During the mission Endeavour's crew successfully added another truss segment, a new gyroscope and external spare parts platform to the International Space Station. A new system that enables docked shuttles to draw electrical power from the station to extend visits to the outpost was activated successfully. A total of four spacewalks (EVAs) were performed by three crewmembers. Endeavour carried some 5,000 pounds of equipment and supplies to the station and returned to Earth with some 4,000 pounds of hardware and no longer needed equipment. Traveling 5.3 million miles in space, the STS-118 mission was completed in 12 days, 17 hours, 55 minutes and 34 seconds.

STS-133 (February 24 - March 9, 2011), was the 39th and final mission for Space Shuttle Discovery. During the 13-day flight, the Discovery crew delivered the Permanent Multipurpose Module (PMM) and the fourth Express Logistics Carrier (ELC) to the ISS. The crew also delivered critical spare components including Robonaut 2, or R2, the first human-like robot in space. The mission’s two space walks assisted in outfitting the truss of the station and completed a variety of other tasks designed to upgrade station systems. The mission was accomplished in 202 Earth orbits, traveling 5.3 million miles in 307 hours and 3 minutes.

Jose Hurtado Dr. José M. Hurtado, Jr.

Dr. Hurtado earned a B.S./M.S. in geology from Caltech in 1996 and a Ph.D. in geology from MIT in 2002. He joined the faculty at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) in 2002 where he teaches physical geology, field geology, remote sensing, tectonic geomorphology, and planetary science. His terrestrial research interests include the tectonic evolution of the Bhutan Himalayas. José is also engaged in a variety of NASA planetary exploration science activities, including work on lunar geomorphology and in-situ resource discovery and utilization through the UTEP Center for Space Exploration Technology Research.

He has served as an instructor for NASA field geologic training courses, including training of the 2009 Astronaut Candidate class. He was a member of the science teams for the 2009 and 2010 K10 robotic recon/follow-up projects at NASA Ames Research Center and for Desert RATS 2009, 2010, and 2011.