6 Topside Team|
6 Topside team members.|
Journals #5 and #6
note: Marc Reagan is the mission director for the NEEMO 6 mission.
This is the fifth and sixth of a series of daily reports documenting
the undersea activities of the NEEMO 6 crew and its Topside Team
of supporters in Key Largo, Florida.
One of the
unique things about our NEEMO missions is the communication system
we use to allow aquanauts in the water to converse with a 'mission
control' team (called the Advanced Operations Cadre), located in
the Experimental Planning and Operations Center (ExPOC) near the
Mission Control Center in Houston. The aquanauts are wearing wireless
underwater communication units attached to a special full face mask
that allows them to talk to each other, the habitat, and the ExPOC
all while performing complex tasks in the water. For all of the
EVAs, the ExPOC is monitoring the crew's location and other vital
information by talking directly with the crew.
In order to
characterize how these units perform in this environment, we have
developed a communications task where the aquanauts swim out to
a specific area on the reef and perform a prescribed test protocol.
Back in Houston, the ExPOC rates the quality of the communication
and records the results. This exercise is analogous to the types
of activities a newly arrived crew on the Moon or Mars might perform.
is one area we've really struggled with this mission. Some days
the quality of the voice is crystal clear between the aquanauts
and ExPOC. Other times it resembles a bad cell phone commercial:
"Can you hear me now?!" It can be very frustrating to
all involved. The crew, ExPOC, and National Undersea Research Program
(NURP) staff are to be commended for their patience and diligence
in working these issues day after day. Fortunately, today was one
of those great days for comm!
A couple of
interesting Engineering experiments were conducted today. The first
is an experiment in conjunction with Rice University to measure
bone strength. Loss of bone strength is of great interest to NASA
because it is a problem seen by our astronauts in space. In the
case of astronauts, the lack of gravity, and the fact that the bones
are never seeing any weight or force on them, leads them to lose
strength. Use it or lose it. Therefore we schedule a couple of hours
of exercise per day for our astronauts to counteract this problem.
The end effect is very similar to osteoporosis, a disease where
bones lose their strength, and which afflicts millions. The bones
throughout your body are constantly being torn down and rebuilt
throughout your lifetime. This is a natural process that keeps them
When one has
osteoporosis, the teardown keeps happening, but the buildup slows
down. The net effect is bone loss. At the cellular level, bones
are really a latticework of connections - picture how construction
scaffolding looks. You have lengthwise members that provide strength,
and cross members that keep them from buckling.
of looking at bone health (Dexa scans, etc.) do a good job of showing
bone density, but it turns out that's not really a good indicator
of bone strength. Where the bone is lost on this scaffold is just
as important to overall strength as how much is lost. On NEEMO 6
we will be operationally evaluating a small, portable ultrasonic
device which can give a measure of bone strength. In addition, it
is designed to be usable for a normal person with minimal training.
It's likely that this device will be used at home by osteoporosis
patients in years to come to monitor the progress of their disease,
and also the treatment effects.
experiment the crew worked on today was the Wireless Physiological
Monitoring system. Tara has been outfitted with sensors for this
device for the last four days. The objective is to determine the
usefulness of a commercial wireless medical monitoring device inside
a metal-walled habitat (similar to the other kind NASA uses!). It's
even accompanied her on some of her dives. The system can measure
heart rate and overall activity, skin temperature, and core body
temperature. Evaluating it in the Aquarius environment will give
us valuable data on how this system will perform in a space analog
- NEEMO Topside