NEEMO 14 Topside Report No. 11, May 25, 2010
NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations

Mission Day 13 - "Deco and More"


Today is decompression day for the mission. The crew has packed up most of their gear and has begun the process of decompression before their return to the surface.

Decompression is a 15 hour process which will slowly decrease the pressure inside the habitat from the surrounding pressure of 2.5 ATM to the surface pressure of 1 ATM. During this time, the crew will undergo an oxygen pre-breathe protocol which will help wash the nitrogen out of their tissues which has accumulated due to the increased pressure in Aquarius.

This morning, prior to the start of "deco", the crew finished their last set of blood draws supporting the human health and countermeasures research on NEEMO 14. Here is a description of this research:

Human Heath Countermeasures Element (HHC) Immune and Nutrition

The Nutrition and Immune studies have a blood draw on mission day 7 and mission day 13. The Immune study also collects daily saliva samples. Exhaled air samples are collected and questionnaires are completed on mission days 2, 7, 10, 13, and 14.

Nutrition Study titled: To better characterize the oxidative damage known to occur during a NEEMO mission

This nutrition experiment will study the effects of a high-oxygen environment on molecules in the body such as protein, DNA, and fats. NEEMO crew members breathe a normal air mix at a slightly higher pressure and thus their blood and tissues are exposed to more oxygen than usual. The effects of a high-oxygen environment can be investigated by measuring chemicals in blood that will identify which molecules are affected. The type of damage to proteins and DNA observed in previous NEEMO missions is similar to what is observed after long-duration spaceflight.

In this study, blood samples collected will be used to measure and expand the markers of oxidative damage measured in previous NEEMO missions to better characterize observed effects, and to also include biomarkers suggested by the National Cancer Institute. Specifically, this study will examine the effects of a high-oxygen environment on iron metabolism, folate (a B-vitamin), and markers of tissue injury and inflammation.

Immune Study titled: Immune assessment during a short-duration spaceflight-analog undersea mission

The purpose of this study is to measure immune system changes, viral reactivation and stress during the NEEMO mission. Immune system changes occur during spaceflight and could represent a clinical risk to crewmembers during exploration-class space missions. Immune system changes during spaceflight are suspected to be caused by isolation, confinement and other mission-associated stressors. In this context, NEEMO may represent an appropriate ground-based spaceflight analog. Given their comparative low cost and ease of use, ground analogs are useful for spaceflight human physiology research. The data from the NEEMO mission will be compared to in-flight data from a parallel immune study currently being performed onboard the International Space Station. If immune dysregulation is observed in the NEEMO crews that is similar to that observed in flight crews during/following spaceflight, this analog will be validated for some aspects of spaceflight-associated immune dysregulation. A verified ground analog for immune changes would have utility for development of a monitoring strategy and validation of immune countermeasures.

Thanks for following along!

NEEMO Topside