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NEEMO 9 Mission Journal

Mission Day 11
Thursday, April 13, 2006

JSC2006-E-14904 - Ron Garan using a handheld sonic acoustic mapping instrument. Image above: While a stingray cautiously monitors him, Ron Garan uses a handheld sonic acoustic mapping instrument. Part of a tank farm is in the background. Credit: NASA

Dave Williams:

This morning I slept in a little after staying up for our movie last night. We had a quick daily planning conference and Ron and I got ready for our dive to continue building Waterlab.

Once in the water, we put on our simulated life support systems weighed out for lunar gravity. There were two different configurations and Ron and I switched halfway through the two-hour dive. When we started to set up the worksite, there were two southern stingrays in the spot we had chosen and they reluctantly swam away to leave us to our task. One was much smaller than the other reminding me of the scene in “Finding Nemo” where the ray leads the little fish off to school at the edge of the reef! The time flew past and we heard from Nicole that our families were in the ExPOC in Houston watching us while we worked. They had a perfect view of the worksite from the camera on “Scuttle,” the ROV that we can control from the habitat or Houston.

Tim and Nicole did a great job working with the ExPOC and Nicole was our IV crewmember. She did a great job keeping us on the timeline and helping determine which parts connected to one another. We returned to the habitat and I was pretty cold from the dive, despite my 6 mm wetsuit. A warm shower and a mug of hot chocolate awaited us and my shivering gradually stopped. Of course, sweat pants, woolen socks, a shirt and polar fleece top may have played a role as well! Once warm, I had to disrobe again to put on the ambulatory monitoring device to record my physiological data. After it was on and the signals verified, I gratefully scrambled back into my warm clothes trying not to disconnect any of the electrodes in the process.

We set-up the CMAS ultrasound and knee surgery experiment after a quick lunch and reviewed material to teach us how to perform an ultrasound. The tele-mentoring from the Hamilton team went really well and all of us got great images of each other’s knees. Tony, the CMAS orthopedic surgeon, mentored me as I performed an arthroscopy of a simulated knee and surgically repaired a torn meniscus inside the knee. Basically, I inserted a special fiber optic camera into the knee joint to see the torn cartilage and then used a special instrument to remove the torn material. It went very smoothly, a testimony to Tony’s surgical expertise, and I was amazed at how it seemed like he was looking over my shoulder in the same operating room!

I finished my afternoon with a hookah dive, using an air hose connected from the habitat to my regulator instead of a SCUBA air tank to breathe effortlessly as I glided around our undersea home. As the sun began to set in the world above, I swam into the wet porch feeling very much a resident of the reef. Forms, forms and more forms awaited me when I returned as we all had to record our impressions on the success of the experiments for the day and have our reaction times tested!! I think tonight will be an early night – another great day underwater has left me looking forward to a good night's sleep!!

Ron Garan:

This morning started out with Dave and me suiting up into our simulated lunar exploration suits (dive helmet with a simulated Primary Life Support System (PLSS). This PLSS, in conjunction with the weights that we were wearing, allowed us to experience the same gravity as the moon. We headed out from Aquarius to our undersea construction site. We continued the construction on the "Waterlab" structure that Nicole started a few days ago. This is the structure that simulates a lunar communication relay station. The Scuttle remotely controlled vehicle was also involved in our project.

Today we mainly used the vehicle to provide camera views to Mission Control but we are planning on incorporating the ROV in collaborative constructive activities later in the mission. Carmel and the boys were able to go over to Mission Control and watch our Extra Vehicular Activity (EVA). They were able to hear us and see views from our helmet cameras, the ROV camera and other cameras in the area. It was great to be able to say hi to them while standing on the bottom of the ocean 1,000 miles away.

After our dive we received word that a cargo ship had landed in the area of our habitat. Tim and Nicole deployed the ROV and started a search. Tim flew the ROV to the vicinity of the landing coordinates we were given and then started a grid search with the ROV. Nicole took over the search and found the cargo ship in the vicinity of small coral reef about 300 feet from the habitat. During the grid search Tim and Nicole drove the ROV along the bottom for specified distances and then would thrust up to an altitude that permitted a good view of the immediate vicinity in all directions and descend back down, land and continue on. The ROV did not have enough thrust to carry the payload back to the habitat. But fortunately the entire search was tracked via our tracking system. We had the bearing and range of the payload along with good pictures of the landing site. We will send out an EVA crewmember to recover the payload as soon as the schedule allows.

The rest of the day was spent accomplishing more medical experiments. Each of us took turns being mentored through ultrasound imaging of the structure of the knee (each of us also took turns as the "patient"). After the ultrasound, each of us was mentored through a simulated arthroscopy procedure. During the procedure we removed torn meniscus. It is really amazing what a person without formal medical training can accomplish with a good mentor.

Nicole Stott:

Waterlab was the focus of our morning today. Ron and Dave went out on the hard hat diving rigs and lunar space suit backpack simulators, and Tim and I provided the ROV setup and IV support. With direction from us inside the habitat and from the crew, the ExPOC operated the ROV in a surveillance mode for the operation. We now have both the left and right substructures built. Tomorrow morning Tim and I go out to continue work on the remaining sections while Ron and Dave support us from inside Aquarius.

The next ROV activity of the day was a search for our “cargo vehicle.” This was an exploration activity to simulate that following our landing on the moon our cargo supply vehicle has landed somewhere off course and we're using the ROV to perform the initial search for it. Tim and I were the ones flying the ROV at the start of the search, and because we're so good ;), we found it on the second leg of the search!

Later in the day we had some more telemedicine activities -- today was ultrasound of the knee and arthroscopy. Tim and I paired up and performed the ultrasound on each other and then we each performed an arthroscopy procedure on an artificial knee. Both of these activities were done with tele-mentoring by our experts in Canada. These were both very effective tasks for demonstrating the benefit of tele-mentoring and how an untrained medical person like me (“I’m not a surgeon, I just play one on NEEMO”) can take expert guidance and successfully perform these types of procedures.

Every day I'm here I find some new and beautiful sea life to admire. Today there was a little school of 4 scrawled filefish. (Didn't even know the name of them until today -- thank you, Ross.) These fish have an elongated body and a long, broom-like tail. Their body is a very pale white, almost opal-like color with these beautiful vibrant blue squiggly spots and little random black spots covering them from head to tail. As I watched them through the large wet porch view port, they moved together very gracefully around the view port and across to the tank farm before I lost sight of them.

Tim Broderick:

We had a good night’s sleep despite some rough seas.

We began the morning with preparation for rover-assisted Waterlab construction. ExPOC will remotely control Scuttle to assist Dave and Ron with Waterlab construction. While we had some minor communications issues, Dave and Ron made great progress setting up Waterlab while weighted at lunar g. ExPOC assisted and filmed. The crew families watched from ExPOC via the diver helmet and underwater Navy camera. Very nice.

Despite the seas, topside divers were able to place our underwater cargo vehicle that we will begin to recover later today. This cargo vehicle represents a supply vehicle with a faulty transponder that has landed somewhere around our lunar base. We will search for the cargo vehicle using Scuttle later today -- as long as the current does not pick up too much more throughout the day. I wonder where topside placed it and what they placed inside as our reward....

We found it. Using the tracking system on Scuttle, the navigation system on the rover, and natural/manmade landmarks we were able to find the cargo vehicle between Kamper and S4 lines despite quite poor conditions (current and visibility). We searched out on a radial to about 310 feet from the habitat on a bearing of 135 degrees. Drove the rover between and flew the rover over coral heads. When we popped up to a higher depth for a wider view during return to the habitat, we saw the cargo vehicle. We grappled the payload but it was too heavily weighted and without an adequate hold for the manipulator. We will have to head out to get it tomorrow.

Sabina delivered CMAS4. Tele-mentored knee ultrasonography and simulated arthroscopy completed and enjoyed by all crewmembers. We have a little more to do on CMAS1 and we have completed all our CMAS science.

Another busy day tomorrow. The days are so busy and tiring that they are blurring together. I can’t believe it is MD11. How fast the mission is passing….

NEEMO Topside Report -- Mission Days 10 & 11
April 12 and 13, 2006

Operationally this has been a very challenging mission. Along with all our mission objectives, we have been incorporating the use of a lot of new equipment to more fully enable the exploration analog. Among these are the Cobra Tac (underwater navigation device), remotely operated vehicle (ROV), and Link Quest (aquanaut tracking system). All of these need data and/or control connectivity back to the ExPOC (our control center back in Houston) to successfully complete the analog. Of course our computers are a common link here, as the data/control function passes along the Internet through our laptop computers in the habitat. We have had challenges with this connectivity with each of these systems so far during the mission, but we finally seem to be at the point that we've overcome most of them.

The aquanaut tracking system is a centerpiece of our exploration analog activities. When we go back to the moon to stay, our astronauts will sometimes be going on lengthy excursions away from their base. Obviously for their own safety, as well as for situational awareness for the Mission Control team in Houston, it will be beneficial to know where they are. Think of an air traffic controller seeing a screen showing each airplane in the area - its distance away, its bearing (direction from the tower), and a little track of dots (called "breadcrumbs") showing where it has been. This is how our aquanaut tracking system works. It has a transceiver mounted above Aquarius which sends ultrasonic signals out across the reef. The aquanauts and/or ROV are outfitted with a transponder. When the transponder gets interrogated by the incoming signal from the transceiver, it replies with identifying information. Thus our mission controllers in the ExPOC and crewmembers inside the habitat know where each aquanaut and the ROV are with respect to the habitat, as well as where they've been. You'll see how valuable this tool is for the upcoming "cargo vehicle" search...

Last night we celebrated the midpoint of the NEEMO 9 mission, in the tradition of the 100-day parties we frequently have for our crewmembers aboard the International Space Station. The crew graciously planned this in advance as a show of appreciation to their families, the staff of the National Undersea Research Center (NURC), the Topside Team, and the team in the ExPOC. At NURC there was a feast for the staff and Topside Team. In Houston, the families of the crew and ExPOC team gathered in the ExPOC for a ceremonial cake. We had a videoconference set up with Aquarius, and the crew and all present got to talk, laugh, and share the experience together. It's hard to believe the mission is nearing its end!

Thanks for staying with us!
- NEEMO 9 Topside Team

For crew journals, live webcam views, images and aquanaut profiles, visit:


 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 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 7
"There is nothing quite like the transition from a warm bed to a cold wetsuit to wake you up in the morning!"
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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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