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NEEMO 15 Topside Reports
October 27, 2011

Engineering evaluations by topside personnel in preparation for having the crew work with the Deep Worker submersibles as Space Exploration Vehicle analogs; note the custom designed foot restraint and magnetic stinger for docking with the rock wall simulating an asteroid surface. Photo credit: NASA

Engineering evaluations by topside personnel in preparation for having the crew work with the DeepWorker submersibles as Space Exploration Vehicle analogs; note the custom designed foot restraint and magnetic stinger for docking with the rock wall simulating an asteroid surface. Photo credit: NASA

Mission Day 7:


The NEEMO mission wrapped up today on mission day 7 of a planned 13-day mission due to the threat of Hurricane Rina hitting Florida in the next few days. The Aquarius Reef Base staff have worked tirelessly over the last couple of days to help us wrap up the mission early and begin preparing the habitat for the incoming storm.

All objectives were successfully met up until the mission had to be scrubbed and the team was on track to complete the remaining mission days. The remainder of the mission would have further assessed the effects of asteroid-like communication delays as well as completing working with the DeepWorker submersibles as Space Exploration Vehicle (SEV) analogs. Completion of these objectives on the next NEEMO mission in the near term is critical to provide a complete evaluation of asteroid exploration techniques and provide input to the next stage of analog testing. Look for a post-test quick look report in the next week for a more comprehensive summary of the mission.

Mission Day 6:

This morning during the NEEMO team meeting, we learned that then-Tropical-Storm Rina was possibly headed our way and the crew was going to start Decompression Prep today... with "Splash Up" scheduled for tomorrow morning. This unfortunately means we were not able to complete our objective of testing the crew autonomy experiment with no conferences and just using the Daily Planning Review document.

Replanning of this day was fairly straight forward. We deleted all activities from Mission Day 6 to Mission Day 11, and pulled up Decompression Day and Splash Up day to happen on Mission Days 6 and 7. We also deleted all the science activities and end-of-mission surveys the crew were supposed to do on Decompression Day. This was to give the crew more time to get everything packed up and ready to go in the shortened timeframe.

Timeline/Planning Wrap up:

With the mission ended, the planning team helped with data collection and archiving back in the mobile mission control center (MMCC). We also put together a survey for the crew and Topside team for Score and Score-Mobile (our planning tools). We hope to get some good comments from these surveys as they could potentially enhance how the tools operate by giving us new ideas, concerns, improvements, or recommendations. There were other surveys as well that did not get completed due to the compressed mission. The planners helped those other teams get their surveys out to the crew as well, and hopefully they will get a lot of useful information out of those as well.

In all, even with the shortened mission, we still learned a lot. Although, we were not able to test any of our crew autonomy methods, we have a lot of lessons learned for future missions and team interaction. Of note is a recommendation that we get some more extensive training on how to use xGDS (another AMES Research Center developed planning tool, extremely useful in planning traverses). Having a stronger interaction between the operational planning side and the traverse sciences team will be beneficial. Specifically, it could help us develop a way for Score and xGDS to interact with each other.

Topside personnel interacting with the crew during a medical contingency scenario. Photo credit: NASA

Topside personnel interacting with the crew during a medical contingency scenario. Photo credit: NASA

Behaviorial Health & Performance Science:

Hab Tool:

  • Were able to ensure transfer of all GoPro and Looxcie videos to server with crew help during Mission Day 6
  • Overall:
    • Were able to successfully capture GoPro and Looxcie videos from all crewmembers per the schedule
    • Crew also successfully completed almost 100% of all iShort surveys per the schedule
    • Data analysis will likely glean qualitative conclusions from preliminary data that was collected

BHP Comm Delay:

  • Were able to collect all audio and video that was captured during two simulated tasks on Mission Day 5
  • Overall:
    • First two tasks implemented successfully; data completion collected from crew and CAPCOM via subjective assessments (after the morning and evening tasks were completed)
    • Remaining tasks will be requested to be completed at next NEEMO mission
    • Data analysis will allow qualitative comparisons between no delay and communication delay tasks and the relative impact on group performance

Education and Public Outreach:

Mission Day 6:

  • Hosted ~50 5th grade students from KLS Elementary School to tour MMCC with an introduction by Astronaut Dr. Stan Love
  • Successfully completed a Digital Learning Network Event with JSC and several connected Intermediate Schools. Astronaut Stan Love supported the Q&A session with the students
  • Continued to update and monitor social media sites
  • Put in a request with JSC PAO for a press release immediately following the local announcement that NEEMO 15 would end early due to Hurricane Rina
  • Contacted all other parties scheduled to have EPO Events with NEEMO 15 and informed them that we would not be able to support any more scheduled events

The NEEMO 15 team all together again after splash up. Photo credit: NASA

The NEEMO 15 team all together again after splash up. Photo credit: NASA

EPO Wrap Up:

The EPO Team successfully rescheduled the entire EPO schedule for NEEMO 15 after the delay of Mission Start, with the loss of only one event. When the mission started, we hit the ground running. With the help of the crew and the topside team, we were able to connect live via the internet with several Challenger Learning Centers across the country, the Miami Science Museum, the Digital Learning Network for both Langley and JSC, and daily with the KSC Visitor's complex Exploration Space Theater. We also coordinated and executed NASA TV Live shots with the crew – one hour worth of live interviews with the crew and multiple media outlets broadcast on NASA TV. We coordinated and executed media interviews for JAXA and CSA, and hosted several reporters on site, including Discover Channel Canada. With the crew's support, we were able to capture several quick videos from the Aquarius and post them on YouTube and they provided us with daily blogs for the NEEMO website. We held a successful Community Event with the neighbors and hosted several locals on tours through MMCC. We hosted several VIP visitors, as well. We constantly monitored and updated Twitter and Facebook and uploaded videos and photos during the mission to those sites. We uploaded all of the "Best Of" photos daily to the NEEMO Flickr page.

Even though the mission was cut short, we connected at least once with each group that we scheduled events with, because many of the groups had requested multiple connections. We took advantage of the delayed start as much as possible, by coordinating interviews and videos with the crew during that time. With the help of topside team member SME's, we were able to hold a couple of events while the crew was not available to us. Overall, we completed about half of the 21 events that were scheduled (not including media events and/or interviews).

NEEMO Zooniverse Project:

During the mission, in collaboration with Zooniverse and Vizzuality, the NEEMO science team enlisted the help of citizen scientists to assist in finding aquatic life on the ocean floor surrounding the Aquarius habitat, using still imagery taken by an unmanned submarine mission to the region. In less than a week, over 250 users categorized over 12,000 features, and confirmed (or disputed) each others observations over 22,000 times. Crowdsourcing techniques such as these are being considered in the overall exploration approach, as NASA plans missions to distant worlds, including asteroids.

› For more information about the project, please visit http://neemo.zooniverse.org.

› For additional photos from the mission, please visit the NEEMO Flickr site.

Thanks for following along with the mission and we'll see everyone again in May/June 2012 for NEEMO 16.

Mission Day 5:

Mission Day 5 went well as expected and the crew got a chance to sleep in for a little bit. Today's morning and evening DPC's went well and will be the last conferences of the mission. Starting on Mission Day 6, we will be switching over to the new Daily Planning Review (DPR) protocol in which we will see how the crew executes their day without having any planning conferences (no live back-and-forth communication). We put together a detailed DPR (Daily Planning Review) file (which we had been practicing for the previous 5 days with a file to compliment the Daily Planning Conferences... something akin to a Daily Summary or Flight Plan Revision which were used on International Space Station and Space Shuttle missions respectively). This will let them execute their day by just using the DPR document. The data obtained from this experiment will allow us to determine the impacts to crew performance, planning and whether this strategy hinders crew productivity.

The crew had two medical emergency simulations today as well as some EPO Events, a PAO Event, and some habitability experiments today. Even with the unexpected comm failure during the first simulation (which added even more realism to the scenario) things went really well. From a planning perspective the only hiccup from this day was the communication test between Aquarius and the submersibles went long. It forced us to have to start the second medical emergency simulation later than planned, but we were still able to complete it on time.

A lot of replanning of future mission days was accomplished today as well. The crew had requested more time between EVAs for lunch to give them time to eat and turn around the equipment for the second daily EVA. We looked at each individual day and compared the scheduled activities and their durations with the real-time data from previous days (i.e. EVAs, EVA Debriefs, Surveys, etc.). We were able to find an extra thirty minutes on each day to extend the meals. The crew was really appreciative of this.

Mission Day 4 (Oct. 23)

NEEMO 15 Commander Shannon Walker and crewmember David Saint-Jacques perform an EVA simulating small boom translation on an asteroid surface.

NEEMO 15 Commander Shannon Walker and crewmember David Saint-Jacques performing an EVA testing small boom translation on an asteroid surface.

Mission Day 4 was another successful day for NEEMO 15. The crew continued evaluation of concepts for exploration on an asteroid. In addition, science traverses were executed with two DeepWorker submersibles in parallel with the EVA activities. It was a very busy day that was not without its challenges but all objectives were met for the day, including preparation for the start of the saturation crew working with the DeepWorker submersibles on Mission Day 5.

Deep Worker Science:

Today was Day 3 of the science traverse activities with the DeepWorker submersibles. The main goals were to count fish, characterize the benthic community, and collect water chemistry information as part of a historical dataset. On the first day of operations (Friday), the team completed part of the transit (near Aquarius) and ran through all of the various operational procedures. Saturday's flights were a complete success, completing all planned waypoints, and focusing on fish counts, benthic characterization, and sediment sampling in the area to the north of the habitat. Mission day 4 saw one sub in the water, tethered to the surface and streaming video to the world, with full Science Backroom team support from the MMCC. The flight went great! The afternoon's dives, which were to focus on collecting conductivity, temperature, dissolved oxygen, and pH data on the area to the south of Aquarius, were cut (very) short due to the strong current.

Behavioral Health & Performance (BHP) Science:


There was a successful video capture from the GoPro camera today by the crew. Battery life on the cameras has been an issue and the team is still trying to understand the issue; a back-up GoPro camera should arrive by Tuesday and will be potted down.

There were some issues with using the Looxcie camera for during the EVA ingress task. During the evening DPC it was discussed that the problem may be an issue with proximity of the iPad to the Looxcie; the team is following-up with the Principal Investigator (PI) to troubleshoot further.

BHP Communications Delay:

Successful prep for Mission Day 5 tasks; the first task will have no communication delay; second task will have 30 second communication delay.


MOD personnel supported utility dive operations, guest dives and MMCC operations. Mission Day 4 objectives focused on evaluation of small boom and SAFER based operations for NEA simulated tasks. The small boom concept includes a telescoping boom which can by anchored on either end to the NEA surface, or cantilevered from a single base end. In this configuration the crew can "walk" the boom between worksites and provide body stabilization. The SAFER was simulated using a Pegasus back mounted thruster system. Some of the lessons learned and preliminary findings from the day include the following:

  • As expected the SAFER was very effective at translation for unencumbered crewmembers when little or no contact force is required with the asteroid surface. Handling large masses like the core drill, or performing tasks with high forces like rock chipping were not well suited for SAFER based operations.
  • Navigation throughout the test area circuit proved challenging over greater distances with limited visibility. This highlighted the need to establish a standard reference frame to be used during ground controlled approach (GCA) communication. This is a similar lesson that has been learned through extravehicular (EV)/Robotics coordination on ISS. Additionally an updated map will be created as a cuff checklist procedure for EV crew reference.
  • Crew dive umbilical routing became a challenge as the cables became significantly tangled as the test progressed. Initially we intended to use the umbilical to simulate a safety tether such that the crew would need to manage its routing. Because the dive umbilical is negatively weighed out, it did not perform in a similar fashion as a safety tether. Therefore this objective will be omitted from future test days.
  • The rock chipping bag has proven to be difficult to use because it does not fit over the larger rocks being sampled. Additionally the embedded picks within the bag are small and would be difficult for a crew to safely use in a pressurized suit. Real-time design modifications are being considered for future test days.
  • The small boom did provide a stable work platform and the concept may have some use for certain operations. However, there is significant overhead with its operation. The translation rate for large distances is slow because new anchors need to be established with each "step" or base change operation. It also has associated inefficiencies as tested today with operation by two dedicated crew; single crew operation of the boom may be tested later in the mission if time allows. If something similar were to be used for flight, features should be added to the boom to allow better crew restraint during hands free tasks.

Education and Public Outreach (EPO):

The team conducted a scheduled event with KSC Visitor complex with David Saint-Jacques (CSA), and hosted reporters from the German and Austrian public radio. Also, the websites and social media sites were updated with the latest mission progress.

Mission Day 3 (Oct. 22)

left to right: Bill Todd, NEEMO Mission Manager; Jeremy Hansen and Jeanette Epps, astronaut CAPCOMS; Jane Lubchenko, NOAA Administrator; Zeb Scoville, MOD EVA

Left to right: Bill Todd, NEEMO Mission Manager; Jeremy Hansen and Jeanette Epps, astronaut CAPCOMS; Jane Lubchenko, NOAA Administrator; Zeb Scoville, MOD EVA


Mission Day 3 saw some amazing work by the entire team as the second day of EVAs were executed. The crew is doing great and the entire topside team is working hard to make the mission a success. During the day, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Administrator, Jane Lubchenko, paid a visit to the topside facilities to see all of the great work being done by the team.


All activities were right on the timeline for mission day 3. It was determined early in the morning that Habtech-1 was going to be able to support the EVA as a diver, so that caused a last minute replan shortly before the DPC. No significant replan is necessary for Mission Day 04.

It was discovered last night that the crew was unable to get connected to the IM Chat server. The team spent part of the previous evening and most of the morning working to discover the problem and write an updated procedure to help out the crew. It was reported yesterday afternoon that the crew is now able to connect to the IM Chat server which will be a big help in the days to come when communications delay is introduced into the analog.

Mission Operations Directorate (MOD) EVA:

MOD personnel supported utility dive operations and MMCC Operations. Mission Day 3 objectives focused on evaluation of foot restraint operations for NEA simulated tasks. Some of the lessons learned and findings from the day include the following:

  • Boom and Astronaut Positioning System (APS) operations provide a better platform for capturing contextual imagery prior to sampling operations compared to translations lines. This is because it allows the crew to easily back away from the sample location to provide a greater field of view.
  • The large boom was particularly challenging to move and reposition during the test and required the second crewmember manually drag the boom tip to the various worksites. This is recognized as a limitation of the mockup hardware. Even still, the crew commented that the boom motion felt very realistic for the aquanaut in the foot restraint. Testing the concept of an astronaut positioning system on the front of a Space Exploration Vehicle (SEV) will likely require tests in multiple facilities and venues to fully understand all of the operations factors involved from dynamics, stability, and maneuverability.
  • Translating large massive objects like the core drill was significantly easier from a foot restraint platform because the crew is able to keep two hands on the mass. The drill mockup was weighed out slightly negative which impacted the quality of the evaluation. This gave false security while installing the drill. Subsequent test will have the drill adjusted to have a slightly positive weighout. This will require the aquanaut crew to be much more deliberate about controlling the mass in a simulated zero-g environment.

Education and Public Outreach (EPO):

There was a successful community event last night here in Key Largo attended by much of the NEEMO team, including astronaut Mike Gernhardt and Canadian Space Agency (CSA) astronaut Jeremy Hansen. EPO events will be continuing throughout today and the rest of the mission.

Mission Day 2 (Oct. 21)

Aquanaut Steve Squyers (Cornell) traverses back to the translation box to go down a different path

Crewmember Steve Squyres evaluating traversing on an asteroid surface via translation lines.


The day started with examples of the challenges that come with analog testing, including equipment issues that had to be resolved before the EVAs could start for the day. The EVAs had a delayed start but the crew did an excellent job catching up, getting all timeline activities complete on time. The topside dive support crew was in the water and also had to do some troubleshooting to be able get communication with the in-water test director working with the crew. Additional preparations were performed on the equipment in preparation for the next day's EVAs.

On shore, MMCC got into the swing of EVA support with the CAPCOM and EVA operations team members working with the crew to help them perform their tasks. The DeepWorker science traverses have been delayed due to the Liberty Star arriving late this morning and mobilization of the submersibles taking longer than expected. Late in the day, the submersibles were able to be deployed to begin their work.

Mission Day 2 wrapped up successfully with our first daily EVA debrief and evening daily planning conference (DPC). Below you will find reports from each of the discipline areas. On the afternoon of Mission Day 2, the crew officially became Aquanauts with having lived underwater for more than 24 hours. Additionally, Shannon Walker became the 39th person to both fly in space and live under the water. Congratulations Shannon!


Mission Day 2 went really well. The crew got out the door a bit late on both EVAs due to technical issues, but both EVAs were completed on time. The crew is on their way to getting all tasks completed and the only aborted activities were HabTech-1 and HabTech-2 not being able to dive in the afternoon.

There was only a minor replan for Mission Day 3. Again, HabTech-1 and HabTech-2 are not able to dive EVA support today, so they were both re-scheduled as IVA Support for EVAs 3 and 4. The only other change from the pre-flight plan is the removal of the media event that was scheduled on this day.

Education and Public Outreach (EPO):

  • There was as successful test from the habitat with Cornell using Skype in preparation for a later event
  • The team conducted an education event with the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) visitor complex with Paul Abell and Wendy Watkins. During the event, a group of students from a field trip were able to attend and ask questions about NEEMO.
  • The team recorded a midday video from Shannon Walker and uploaded it to social media sites.

Behavioral Health & Performance (BHP) Science:

Habitat Tool:

  • Successfully potted down all gear; crew completed first two videos today using Looxcie and crew was asked to complete SHORT questionnaires in the evening
  • GoPro camera issues were been addressed and the cameras are set to be potted this morning; first task using GoPro is scheduled for tomorrow afternoon


Mission Day 1: Splashdown (Oct. 20)

Discussion of EVA procedures before the splash down boat leaves shore.

Just before splashdown, the crew discusses EVA procedures.

After several days of bad weather and high seas, weather and seas improved and we were able to get the NEEMO 15 mission underway. The crew "splashed down" to Aquarius mid-afternoon on Thursday, Oct. 20, 2011. After entering the habitat, they received safety briefings and orientation followed by a SL-17 orientation dive for the crew in pairs, spanning into the evening. Topside in the mobile mission control center (MMCC), the surface support team followed along and continued preparation for the first EVAs on Mission Day 2.

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