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Training Week Journal

CDR Dave Williams
Friday, March 31, 2006

JSC2006-E-12366 - Tim Broderick, Nicole Stott,  Dave Williams and Ron Garan Image above: Tim Broderick and astronauts Nicole Stott, Dave Williams and Ron Garan prepare for their stay inside the Aquarius Underwater Laboratory. Credit: NASA

The training week is drawing to a close and today’s plan is to switch from SCUBA diving to diving with a diving helmet. After crew wake-up at 7 a.m. we had a quick breakfast, worked on e-mails and crew notebooks and went to the mission science briefing at 8:30. The crew and team members from NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Undersea Research Center (NURC), the Center for Minimal Access Surgery (CMAS) and the National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI) attended the science brief which lasted for around an hour. We discussed all of the science objectives for the experiments inside the habitat and the exploration objectives during the dives. The mission as planned will be the most complex and longest NEEMO and Aquarius mission to date. The longest previous missions on Aquarius were 14 days although the longest saturation diving mission was on Tektite 1 for 58 days in 1969. Inspired by the thought that the work done on NEEMO 9 will help future lunar missions, the brief ended and the crew went for a tour of the NURC watch desk – the equivalent mission control for a spaceflight. During our mission we will be speaking with both the NURC watch desk and the NASA Exploration Planning and Operations Center (EXPOC) in Houston. During our dives, the EXPOC will follow the activity of the crew outside the habitat using a diver tracking system to evaluate the benefit of tracking future lunar astronauts performing spacewalks on the surface of the moon. They will also help us keep track of our air consumption during the dive and ensure that we follow the timeline to complete our tasks. The briefings finished with an overview of the networking capability inside the habitat that we will use to upload our digital photographs and videos to the topside team. Roger, our NURC trainer for the diving helmet, took us outside to be weighed with all of our wetsuit and equipment needed for the helmet diving. Knowing this weight helps us determine how much weight to add to be neutrally buoyant or negatively buoyant while walking on the bottom of the ocean. One of the exploration objectives for the helmet dives will be to evaluate the effect on our gait of changing the center of gravity of our equipment with our total weight underwater simulating the 1/6 G experienced walking on the moon. If the center of gravity of future lunar spacewalkers is too high, they run the risk of falling over repeatedly on the lunar surface. Standing on the scale with my arms loaded down by all of the equipment, I watched the display jump from my typical weight of 195 pounds to 260 pounds!! It reminded me of being in space where, in the absence of gravity, my body elongated 1.75 inches so that I was 6 feet, 2.75 inches tall!! We boarded the boat suitably impressed with all of the gear we would be wearing for the upcoming dive. The waves around the habitat were 5 to 7 feet so we went to a sheltered location on the leeward side of the reef where the waves were 2 to 3 feet and the water depth 15 feet. It was a bit of a challenge walking across the heaving boat deck wearing all of the equipment and I was relieved to jump into the water and descend to the bottom on the excursion line. The topside team ran me through the “in water” checks and then shut off my primary gas supply so I could practice breathing on the emergency gas system. It was very easy breathing in the helmet and the communication with the topside team was crystal clear. After finishing the practice drills I was free to walk around the bottom, do handstands (to see if the helmet would leak when I was upside down – it didn’t), somersaults and other body positions to get used to the suit. Despite all the gear, pushups on the bottom were pretty easy as my weight underwater was less due to the buoyant effect of my wetsuit. After 17 minutes I climbed back up the line to the boat and was brought aboard by the topside team. We all had a chance to practice being the dive supervisor and tender before we headed back to the shore to clean our equipment and finish off the day with the daily debrief. To celebrate the completion of our training we took a long dinner and finished off with e-mail and working on our crew notebooks. Tomorrow we have a day off, or more accurately a day without scheduled training as we wrap up a few loose ends before the mission starts next Monday.

NEEMO Topside Report - Training Week


An intense training week for the 9th NEEMO mission has concluded successfully with all 4 crewmembers graduating from "Aquanaut Candidate" status to being officially signed off to start the mission on Monday, April 3. The crew will live for 18 days aboard Aquarius, the only operational undersea research habitat in the world. When completed, the mission will have the distinction of being the longest Aquarius mission to date. The Mission Commander is Dr. Dave Williams, M.D., a veteran CSA astronaut, accompanied by NASA astronaut crewmates Ron Garan and Nicole Stott. Dr. Tim Broderick, M.D. joins them with tele-surgery expertise from the University of Cincinnati. Jim Buckley and Ross Hein, both professional aquanauts from the University of North Carolina Wilmington, round out the crew and will operate the Aquarius and oversee safety during the mission. Mr. Buckley is also the Aquarius habitat manager and veteran of many missions as an aquanaut.

NEEMO 9 is being sponsored by the Center for Minimal Access Surgery (CMAS) in collaboration with the Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center (TATRC), the National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI), the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and NASA. (CMAS is a not-for-profit group located at St. Joseph's Hospital in Hamilton, Ontario, and supported by the Faculty of Health Sciences at McMaster University. TATRC is the cutting-edge medical technology center for the U.S. Army.) The principal investigator on this project is Dr. Mehran Anvari from CMAS. The mission director is Marc Reagan, along with the rest of the topside team: Monika Schultz, Dan Sedej, Kristen Painting, Alex Moore and Kimi Parker and NEEMO Project Lead Bill Todd from JSC; Trevor Chapman from CMAS; and Pam Baskins and Valerie Olsen from the NSBRI.

The major goals of this mission are to 1) evaluate the use of tele-mentoring and tele-robotics in performing emergency diagnostic, surgical and interventional therapies in a confined and extreme environment (as found in spaceflight), and 2) investigate open questions and operational concepts that will enable NASA to return humans to the moon as part of the President's Vision for Space Exploration. In support of the 2nd objective, we will be using remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), an aquanaut tracking system, a crew-based navigation device, lunar time delays and diving equipment to support surface-based EVAs (extra-vehicular activities). One research objective has already been accomplished during training week. Motion sickness affects many people each year, with effects ranging from discomfort to loss of functionality. NASA has a high interest in understanding how to combat it, because similar symptoms have been known to afflict astronauts in space. NASA's Neurosciences Laboratory is conducting preliminary tests on a non-drug method of minimizing or resolving motion sickness. Initial studies of this novel technique on seasickness were conducted on 3 subjects during the NEEMO 9 training week. Approximately 20 years ago, it was observed that when subjects were placed in a situation where they would become motion sick, the light flashes from a stroboscope, or strobe light, would limit their symptoms. So for the testing during NEEMO 9 training week, the subjects wore a pair of eye glasses with lenses that flash (like a strobe) at a frequency of 8 Hz while they rode a boat on the open ocean. More testing will be planned for future NEEMO missions, as well as testing that is already under way to determine the effectiveness of these stroboscopic glasses on carsickness and motion sickness induced by parabolic flight (zero-g plane).

 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 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 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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