Past NEEMO Missions |
NASA members of the NEEMO 2 crew: from left, Sunita
Williams, Dan Tani, Marc Reagan and Mike Fincke.
and contractors have completed several NASA Extreme Environment
Mission Operations, or NEEMO, missions. Living in Aquarius for up
to a two weeks, they work alongside experts from the National Undersea
Research Center, or NURC, simulating some special conditions of
life aboard the International Space Station.
training instructor Bill Todd is the project manager for NEEMO,
and he commanded the first mission -- a one-week stay inside Aquarius.
He was joined by two NASA astronauts -- Mike Gernhardt and Mike
Lopez-Alegria -- and Canadian Space Agency Astronaut Dave Williams.
On the first
day of the mission, Williams
wrote in his journal: "In contrast to the eight and a half minute
flight to space where 7 million pounds of thrust were propelling
us to low earth orbit, the leisurely swim to the habitat seemed
quite surreal ... We left the habitat at 10:04 - four aquanauts
embarking on their first real dive from an underwater habitat."
In May 2002,
the second NEEMO crew took the plunge. Space Station trainer Marc
Reagan accompanied NASA Astronauts Sunita Williams, Dan Tani and
Mike Fincke for a one-week stay in Aquarius.
in his Mission Day 2 journal entry:
"At noon today ... we officially became aquanauts. Not 'certified
trained as aquanauts,' not 'wannabe aquanauts,' but real aquanauts.
Welcome to a pretty exclusive club. In case you were wondering,
there is no door prize, but the job benefits are outstanding. Technically,
the term aquanaut is limited to those who stay underwater for 24
hours or more."
The third NEEMO
mission followed two months later, this time with Jonathan Dory,
a human factors expert from Johnson Space Center's Habitability
and Environmental Factors Office. Dory was joined by three astronauts
-- Greg Chamitoff, Danny Olivas and Jeff Williams.
One of the
experiments conducted during NEEMO 3 was the construction of an
underwater structure. The experiment would provide an analog of
Space Station assembly during extravehicular activities, or EVAs.
completing the task, Dory wrote in
his journal: "Working with complex assemblies while using tools,
managing time, air, and buoyancy, all came together to provide an
excellent analogy for performing EVA assembly operations on the
International Space Station. Knowing that successfully completing
waterlab would be difficult, we all worked together to formulate
a plan for assembling waterlab before we came down to Aquarius.
We took the large assembly, and thought of it in terms of separate
smaller assemblies, then created a new set of schematics to illustrate
each small assembly and how they all fit together - a classic case
of divide and conquer. In the end, we were able put together the
whole assembly in half the time we initially planned."
weather systems threatened the NEEMO 4 expedition in September 2002.
The NEEMO 4 crew included Flight Director Paul Hill, two astronauts
-- Scott Kelly and Rex Walheim -- and Jessica Meir, a support scientist
for the International Space Station. The mission was delayed due
to Hurricane Isadore, forcing NURC managers to shorten it to an
underwater duration of five days. Then, three days into their underwater
mission, the crewmembers were told that Tropical Storm Lili was
headed in their direction and to prepare for an early departure
from Aquarius. Fortunately, Lili degenerated to the point where
it was no longer a threat, so the crew was able to remain the full
to the surface, Meir wrote in her
journal: "I hope that the NOAA/NASA relationship continues to
grow, as I believe a significant potential for benefit on both sides
exists through Aquarius."
As of August
2004, NEEMO 5 was the longest expedition to date. The crew, commanded
by Astronaut Peggy Whitson, stayed underwater for 14 days. Joining
Whitson were two other astronauts, Clayton Anderson and Garrett
Reisman, and International Space Station support scientist Emma
the first Space Station Expedition crewmember to live aboard Aquarius,
so she was able to offer a unique perspective. She wrote
in her journal: "I have spent a lot of time in the last [six]
months wishing that I were back living on the International Space
Station ... This longing to be in space is probably why this opportunity
to have a mission under the sea intrigued me."