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NEEMO 9 Mission Journal

Mission Day 8
Monday, April 10, 2006

JSC2006-E-14933 -- Nicole Stott works with Image to right: Nicole Stott works with "in vivo" robots developed by the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. Credit: NASA

Dave Williams:

This morning I grabbed a quick bite of oatmeal and read through the procedures to troubleshoot the remote control of the Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) by the Exploration Planning Operations Center (ExPOC). Our topside team did a great job loading a new computer with the necessary software and sending it down to us. Everything that is sent to the habitat comes in waterproof cylinders called pots, which have a pressure equalization valve in the latched end so that we can open the lids in the habitat. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Undersea Research Center (NURC) topside team, our undersea Sherpas, have been keeping us supplied with experiment hardware, food and film! I was able to get control of the ROV sent to the ExPOC with one of our computers but had to hand off the computer to Ron for science experiments. They were thrilled nonetheless to know that we now had a solution to the problem and we worked out a time for them to drive the robot later in the day. Tim and Nicole had a couple of educational outreach events in the morning and afternoon while Ron donned the ambulatory monitoring system garment to record his heart rate and other physiological recordings for one of the National Space Biomedical Research Institute’s experiments. Both Nicole and Ron did the Center for Minimal Access Surgery’s radiology experiment, sending digital X-ray images to a radiologist in Hamilton, Ontario, for interpretation. We did not actually take X-rays in the habitat - the previously exposed digital X-rays plates were sent down to us and they were connected to the computer and sent over the Internet. Ron and Nicole successfully diagnosed all of the cases and the experiment was a tremendous success! After lunch, Ron and I put on our dive helmets to perform simulated Martian surface spacewalks wearing weights to create the 3/8 gravitational environment on Mars. We collected great data and noticed significant differences with the different weight configurations. We swapped places with the ROV on the wet porch and sent it out for the ExPOC to drive around the sea floor for about an hour. They did a great job driving around the sandy area by the habitat before we brought the ROV back. Dinner and the daily planning conference quickly took us through to bedtime and tomorrow we will be halfway through the mission. It is amazing how quickly the time is going!

Ron Garan:

Today was another exciting day. The first thing I did in the morning was hang a sign in front of the main lock Internet camera wishing Ronnie and Joseph a happy birthday. They both commented later in the day (when I called them) that they saw the sign on the Internet. I wish I could be there for their birthday. After putting on my medical monitoring vest and conducting a telephone interview in Yonkers, NY (my home town), I was mentored through radiology procedures from doctors and technicians in Canada. After taking simulated X-ray images of an ankle and forearm fracture, I transferred the images to Canada. After some brief instruction on reading X-rays, I conducted a graded interpretation of the X-rays (I think I passed). We then did an outreach event with a museum before Dave and I headed out to evaluate spacesuit designs in a Martian gravity environment. Dave and I ran through all the same drills that we accomplished during the lunar gravity evaluation plus some construction tasks. It is very rewarding to realize that we are contributing to the future exploration of our solar system. The rest of the day was spent troubleshooting more of the same computer problems that have plagued the mission. Heading to bed always occurs at the point where I can't keep my eyes open any longer. We have all kept a very fast pace but it's very important to get as much scientific data as we can while we're here.

Nicole Stott:

With the expert assistance of Jim and Ross, Tim and I got suited up first thing in the diving rig. Today was the first day of constructing Waterlab. Waterlab is a polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipe structure that we put together to simulate a construction task in space. For our exploration analog we're treating Waterlab as our communication tower. We enjoyed the time we had on the seafloor, and got the first section of the structure completed, but unfortunately there was a minor problem with Tim's helmet and we had to cut the dive short. Jim and Ross and the topside crew did an excellent job getting the helmet up and running again, so Dave and Ron were able to complete their afternoon dive. Their dive was a continuation of the lunar center of gravity task they started earlier, only this time they were simulating being on the surface of Mars.

On the telemedicine side of things, Ron and I each participated in a telementoring session to learn how to take and assess X-ray images. We weren't taking real X-rays, but we set up the equipment and situated an artificial arm and foot for taking the images, and then we evaluated different images provided to us by our telementors in Canada.

Spotted eagle rays and barracuda were out in full force today. We saw a large school (at least 20) of very large barracuda spending time down around the habitat today. They're really very beautiful to watch -- they are a shiny silver that almost looks like it's painted on and they stay in a group facing the current like a bunch of flags flying together. Another beautiful sight was a group of 4 spotted eagle rays that circled the habitat throughout the day. These are just amazing to watch. They have a very slow and deliberate way of flying through the water -- the four of them flying in tight formation. They were large with an average wing span of six to eight feet. (While we were out working on Waterlab, we also had a large Atlantic ray fly over us).

And to top off the day, we were finally able to configure the ROV again to allow ExPOC to have control. I think that Susan and Pat had a good time maneuvering Scuttle around the sea floor.

Tim Broderick:

What a day... again.

After an early wake up and quick breakfast, we started the morning with a dive targeted on construction of Waterlab. Waterlab is an underwater structure made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) tubing, nuts and bolts analogous to a piece of the International Space Station or a lunar communication tower. We had to shorten our dive because of a technical challenge with the helmet. The technical challenge was quickly addressed by the NURC team. Coop, Roger, Ross and Jim had the helmets ready for our Martian center of gravity dives in the afternoon. Coop and Roger also delivered some groceries.

Nicole led a nice educational outreach event hosted by Johnson Space Center today. The educational outreach at a museum also went well. I especially enjoyed seeing my girls at the evening event. Love those girls.

CMAS 2 was a success. Nicole and Ron were successfully telementored through taking and reading simulated X-rays.

One of the coolest things today was the Martian center of gravity experiments. Dave and Ron walked, jogged, ran, hopped, gathered some rocks, climbed a ladder, and shoveled as future space travelers will on the surface of Mars. Interesting to see them weighed out to 3/8 gravity in a mock-up of the Personal Life Support System (PLSS), or spacesuit backpack. The data we collected should help the spacesuit designers build the next generation of suits for the next generation of space explorers.

I was tired of repeatedly saying "no joy" during our attempts to remotely control Scuttle over the last few days. Today we overcame the computer hardware, software, and network issues for ExPOC to remotely drive Scuttle around on the seafloor behind the habitat. They were happy to actively participate and learned some interesting lessons regarding tether management and situational awareness.

Fixed the robot tonight in preparation for our robotic telesurgery and lunar rock sample analysis tomorrow. From the hardware standpoint, we formulated a plan on Sunday by talking with John, an engineer, on the phone while using a hand-held camera to broadcast an image of the broken screw over the Internet. Nothing a little creative problem solving and some adhesive couldn't take care of.... From the daily planning conference, I am hopeful we have the network issues addressed as well.

Planned our mapping dive for tomorrow. It will be nice to dive as a team.

Millions of strange little creatures swimming (and mixed with eggs floating?) about the viewport when we were slipping off to sleep. Eerie, whitish, amorphous, like an apparition...

NEEMO Topside Report -- Mission Days 7 & 8
April 9 and 10, 2006

We had some amazing accomplishments on Sunday while (hopefully) most of you were enjoying your weekends. We started a new Center for Minimal Access Surgery (CMAS) experiment to evaluate telerobotic technologies in extreme and lunar environments. The robot in question is an experimental new two-armed robot which is much more compact and portable than previous systems. It has "stereo" cameras, which allows the remote surgeon to see in three dimensions, rather than the standard two-dimensional image on a flat screen. It gets digitally linked to the robotic arms aboard Aquarius via a combination of land-based and wireless telecommunications networks. The task was to perform vascular suturing (stitching up a vein) on a medical model aboard Aquarius, with one of the aquanauts assisting the surgeon by changing instruments on the robotic arms and passing sutures.

This marks the first time in human history an entire robotic surgical platform was transported to an extreme environment (in this case Aquarius) and was manipulated successfully from afar. From the control console at CMAS in Hamilton, Ontario, Dr. Mehran Anvari was able to perform a complex surgical task (vascular suturing, or stitching up a vein). Imagine turning your crowded bedroom into an operating room, assembling and hanging an incredibly sophisticated robot between two bunks, and enabling a surgeon thousands of kilometers away to perform a surgical procedure with it! That's what occurred onboard Aquarius Sunday. But there's more: previous research has shown that surgeons can adapt to latencies of 200 to 500 milliseconds, but "common knowledge" said that time delays greater than 500 milliseconds, or half a second, would make such a task impossible. On Sunday it was done successfully even with a 2-second time delay -- equivalent to the time it would take for the signal to travel to the moon! This truly was a noteworthy scientific achievement.

(JSC2006-E-13577) Ron Garan with CMAS experiment
Image above: NEEMO-9 astronaut/aquanaut Ron Garan works with a Center for Minimal Access Surgery experiment in the Aquarius Underwater Laboratory. Credit: NASA

The other major new CMAS experiment that was performed was a validation of digital radiology. One of the possible medical emergencies that might arise in an extreme environment, such as a space exploration mission, is an orthopedic injury. A bone fracture would require diagnosis and medical treatment as soon as possible.

Since x-rays are very important tools in both diagnosing orthopedic injuries and in determining appropriate treatment, we wish to demonstrate that digital x-ray images can be transmitted from an extreme environment over a telecommunications network for evaluation by an expert radiologist. Transmission of medical images such as x-rays over a telecommunications network results in both a time delay (latency) and in some loss of image quality.

The ability to transmit digital x-ray images from an extreme environment requires the compression of the x-ray data to enable fast delivery of the images. However, higher compression rates cause image degradation which could hinder the ability to make a clinical diagnosis. Our goal is to send a series of compressed x-ray images to evaluate which compression algorithms provide both the image quality to make a clinical diagnosis and a timely data transfer. Once the images are uploaded, a physicist and a radiologist will evaluate each image without knowing whether it was sent from Aquarius over the simulated lunar network or an uncompressed x-ray image sent from within the hospital.

Thanks for staying with us!
- 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 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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