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NEEMO 9 Mission Journal

NEEMO Topside Report - Mission Day 4
Thursday, April 6, 2006

JSC2006-E-13577 -- Ron Garan works with a Center for Minimal Access Surgery experiment. Image above: Ron Garan works with a Center for Minimal Access Surgery experiment in the Aquarius Underwater Laboratory. Credit: NASA

Today was another busy day for our sea dwelling NEEMO 9 crew. The major new accomplishments of note were performing another major science objective for the Center for Minimal Access Surgery (CMAS), mapping and surveying the alien landscape in the immediate area around Aquarius, and hosting a film crew from ABC for a feature that will air on “Good Morning America.”

Telementoring allows an experienced surgeon in a distant location to provide real-time advice and guidance to another surgeon during a live surgical procedure. Teleconferencing technology provides a two-way audio and video connection, allowing the two surgeons to talk with each other, and providing the expert surgeon (mentor) with views of the distant operating room and the surgical field. This technology allows surgeons to safely learn new surgical techniques in their own hospitals with the aid of a more experienced surgeon who may be located at a hospital far away.

During the NEEMO 7 mission in October 2004, we demonstrated for the first time that with telementoring from an expert located at St. Joseph's Healthcare in Hamilton, Ontario, Aquarius astronauts with no medical training could be guided through the steps of surgical procedures using simulated patients.

The purpose of the experiment today - "Emergency Treatment of Fractures using External Fixation and Telementoring" - was to build on our experience during NEEMO 7 by evaluating the use of telementoring for emergency treatment of other medical conditions that could arise during a space mission. A broken bone is an example of a potential injury that would require emergency treatment by other members of the mission crew. One of the methods of stabilizing limb fractures is external fixation, in which pins inserted through the skin into the bone are attached to a steel rod outside the limb. In this experiment, the astronauts will attempt to use external fixation to stabilize a leg fracture in a simulated patient. They will be guided through the steps of the procedure by an expert orthopedic surgeon in Hamilton, Ontario, via telementoring.

Since telementoring relies on transmission of video over a network, time delay becomes an issue when video is sent over very long distances. In order to study the effect of delays similar to those that would be experienced during telementoring from Earth to the moon, the astronauts will also attempt the external fixation procedure with telementoring using a telecommunications network that mimics lunar latency (two-second time delay).

This technology may one day enable expert surgeons to guide non-physicians through the procedures necessary to provide emergency surgical care to astronauts injured during space exploration missions, and to patients in remote locations without any access to a physician.

We envision that one of the first tasks for a crew returning to the moon to live will be to survey and map the immediate area around its new home. While satellite maps of the landing site will certainly be available, the detailed maps crewmembers develop in situ can then be used by scientists and Mission Control Center personnel to plan the Extra Vehicular Activities, or spacewalks, for the crew as they work. Similarly, we started this mission with general bathymetric maps of the ocean floor near Aquarius. Today our crew used a navigational device to record the coordinates of landmarks of interest within a 150-foot radius of Aquarius. This, along with detailed bathymetrical data we've previously obtained of the ocean floor will allow us to generate a much more detailed map. The detailed map is required to plan our ROV activities later in the mission, among other things.

Today was a day filled with outreach events, both "educational" (to school children) and "public affairs" (to media). The big media event of the day involved a film crew from ABC who did a live interview for a feature event on “Good Morning America.” The crew really enjoyed the Educational Outreach events today as well, and through Mission Day 4 they have spoken to school children in Alaska, California, New Mexico, Kansas, Texas, Louisiana, Iowa, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, and Florida. The positive responses and thanks from participants have been flooding in to the Topside Team!

As you might imagine, in a tropical ocean teeming with life, any dark, warm, wet place is likely to be a welcome home to bacteria. The wetsuits the aquanauts wear are just such a place. Every day after use they carefully are treated in an enzymatic solution to control bacterial growth. We are fortunate on this mission to have an experiment sponsored by Mt. Carmel High School in Houston designed to look at the effectiveness of our treatment technique. Throughout the mission Ron Garan will be taking swabs of several different areas in his wetsuit and the wetporch, and we are sending those samples back to Houston for the students to analyze using scientific methods. This is a unique partnership with a high school, and will benefit them by giving their students a real world problem to investigate, while potentially yielding valuable data for future Aquarius operations.

On a personal note, our Topside Team sadly bid adieu to two members who greatly facilitated the success of this mission over the last two weeks. Kristen Painting and Dan Sedej had to return to Houston to their full-time jobs. We miss you guys, and appreciate all the hard work over the last few weeks. We couldn't have done it without you!

Thanks for following along!
- NEEMO 9 Topside Team

 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 11
"As the sun began to set in the world above, I swam into the wet porch feeling very much a resident of the reef."
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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 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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