NEEMO 14 Topside Report No. 9, May 25, 2010
NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations

Mission Day 11-12 - "Geoscience"


One of the primary goals of astronaut visits to planetary surfaces will be to explore and map the terrain, then collect noteworthy geological samples for eventual return to Earth. During the NEEMO 14 mission days 11 and 12, NASA planetary scientists at the Aquarius undersea laboratory are studying how samples are chosen, collected, and brought back to the base, and then documented and stored. Obviously, the undersea location of the Aquarius habitat is different from a dry planetary surface. However, scientists studying coral outcrops on the reef surrounding the Aquarius habitat make the same sorts of observations as geologists studying rocks on a planetary surface. Therefore, coral science is used as a proxy for geosciences during NEEMO missions.

The NEEMO missions provide an extreme environment in which to test sample collection tools and techniques as well as train future explorers to be geologists. The Exploration Geoscience Traverse/coral science activity for NEEMO 14 is designed to demonstrate current capabilities for remote geologic mapping and sample collection operations as well as science planning, communications, and data gathering in an extreme environment.

The NEEMO 14 crewmembers will be accompanied by a remotely operated rover (ROV), or robotic field assistant, that will allow scientists and engineers in mission control to evaluate the interaction between the aquanauts and the rover to determine which tasks, such as carrying tools and samples, are best done by humans and which are best left to robotic assistants. These observations will also help scientists and engineers to envision new robotic capabilities for future exploration scenarios. With future missions planned, the NEEMO Analog project provides a unique test bed for NASA.