ISS Update: Interviews (June 11-June 15, 2012)
Interviews: International Space Station Update
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ISS Update: NEEMO 16 Simulates Spacewalk Underwater – 06.14.2012
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NASA Public Affairs Officer Josh Byerly spoke with European Space Agency astronaut Tim Peake, NEEMO 16 crew member. Peake talks about the spacewalk techniques they are testing by simulating an asteroid mission underwater.

During the interview two NEEMO 16 crew members, Kimiya Yui and Steve Squyres, were outside the Aquarius habitat off the coast of Key Largo, Fla. simulating a spacewalk on an asteroid. They were testing jet packs that might be used while working on an asteroid.

During the fourth day of NEEMO 16 the crew was testing translation techniques and a boom for a future mission to an asteroid. Upcoming mission activities include deepwater submersibles the crew members would use to simulate space vehicles that may improve the efficiency of future spacewalks.

Working underwater provides neutral buoyancy along with ankle weights attached to suits simulating the microgravity environment of an asteroid. This allows scientists and engineers to test techniques for future space missions.

ISS Update: Day 2 of NEEMO 16 – 06.13.2012
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On Day 2 of the latest NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) mission, NEEMO 16, NASA Public Affairs Officer Josh Byerly spoke with NASA astronaut Mike Gernhardt about the activities taking place off the coast of Key Largo, Fla.

At the undersea Aquarius laboratory, NASA is investigating how astronauts can explore and collect samples from an asteroid by using the area around the lab and the water’s buoyancy to create an analog, or simulation, of an asteroid environment. Gernhardt, principal investigator for NEEMO 16, and his team have developed a 500-foot-wide underwater “asteroid” with various sampling sites for the aquanauts to test different restraint and translation techniques.

An asteroid mission presents new spacewalking challenges for NASA unlike previous excursions on the lunar surface or outside the International Space Station. Remarked Gernhardt, “On space station we have complete control over the translation paths. … On an asteroid, we have none of that.”

By understanding operational concerns early, the team can provide insight for the design of cost-effective hardware.

“I’m very pleased with what we’re learning,” Gernhardt continued. “If you go back two and a half years, no one had the first clue of how humans were going to operate on an asteroid. Now we’re talking specific tool designs and operational methods.”

ISS Update: NEEMO 16 – 06.12.2012
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In the International Space Station flight control room at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, Houston, ISS Update commentator Josh Byerly interviewed Stan Love, NASA astronaut. Love talked about the latest NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) mission, NEEMO 16, in the Aquarius undersea laboratory off the coast of Key Largo, Fla. As a top-side member of the crew, Love aids the underwater NEEMO crew members on their mission, which provides them with training for long-term spaceflight.

The habitat lies about five miles off the coast in about 60 feet of water. The air pressure inside is, according to Love, “high enough to counteract the pressure of the water outside.” The NEEMO 16 crew members are slated to remain there for a total of 12 days.

The spacewalk training that occurs on a NEEMO mission shares much in common with training in the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory in Houston. The similarities between this water-based training and a real spacewalk are many. The most obvious difference is that, rather than the floor of the ocean or a concrete pool below, in space, “You’ve got the Earth going by 220 miles below at 17,000 miles per hour, so that’s pretty different,” said Love. In addition, the spacewalker’s body has a preferred orientation, but in space, even the slightest touch can cause the body to rotate. This cannot be simulated.

While NEEMO’s mission control has fewer controllers and is much less complicated than the Mission Control Center in Houston, Love said, “We have a real mission running here, and we’re treating it as such with a real mission control.”
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