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John Herrington
IMAGE: NEEMO 6 Commander John Herrington
Astronaut/aquanaut John Herrington, NEEMO-6 commander, types a journal entry while in his living quarters in the Aquarius habitat off the Florida Keys.
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NEEMO 6 Journals

Topside Journal #3

Editor's note: Marc Reagan is the mission director for the NEEMO 6 mission. This is the third in a series of daily reports documenting the undersea activities of the NEEMO 6 crew and its Topside Team of supporters in Key Largo, Florida.


Ever wonder how the crew knows what it is they are supposed to do when they are in space, or in our case underwater? The short answer is that we use timelines and procedures, but of course the devil is in the details... For the Space Shuttle, there is a hardcopy of the timeline, as well as volumes of procedure books. If/when changes are made, we send up a new file electronically, and the crew prints a new hardcopy.

For the International Space Station, it was easily apparent that we could never keep up with the changes (that are happening daily) that way. We designed custom tools to aid the crew in executing their tasks for the day. By design, the Station crew can view their whole timeline and all their procedures on the screen of a laptop. They still have a printer if they need a hardcopy (of procedures, anyway), but the intent is to be able to manage it all electronically. The timeline tool is called OSTPV (Onboard Short Term Plan Viewer) and it allows the crew (and ground team) to view not only a timeline of when the activities are scheduled but also information regarding how to perform that activity in the form of Execute and Ops Notes. The major downside to this tool is that it requires a special - and often cranky - computer and software to generate these timelines. From the timeline you can link to the procedure if desired. Currently we use a special tool to view procedures called MPV (Manual Procedure Viewer). This tool allows the user to see and manipulate the procedure as it's being executed. The downside to it is that it's INCREDIBLY slow and frustrating to use - especially when the procedure contains photos.

The next generation of OSTPV will be web-based. A "beta" version of it is being used for the first time operationally on this NEEMO mission. Over the course of the mission we will have identified dozens of features and limitations that need improvement before using it onboard the Station for the first time. The next version of the procedure viewer, called IPV (International Procedure Viewer) allows much faster and easier viewing of procedures. We are using it as well for the first time on NEEMO 6. For our crew these new tools provide a number of advantages: they resemble the current ISS tools they're already familiar with; they are the predecessors to the versions they will be using on their own ISS missions, and they have the first opportunity to provide inputs to how the tools end up. As an added advantage, we can access both here in Key Largo, and our Mission Control Team in Houston can access them as well - which guarantees we're all on the same page, so to speak.

IMAGE: John Herrington and Douglas Wheelock
Astronaut/aquanauts John Herrington (back to camera), NEEMO-6 commander, and Doug Wheelock, discuss timeline of events in the underwater Aquarius habitat off the Florida Keys

A number of people in the Operations Division at the Johnson Space Center have worked very hard over the last few months working out problems in these two tools so that we could use them for this mission. It was at times questionable whether they would be ready on time, but thanks to the hard work and dedication of a few people, it was possible. It's certainly true that our mission benefits from this, but we're proud to be helping mature these tools for use on the ISS as well.

One of the more interesting and fun aspects of a mission is participating in the Educational Outreach events. This mission features five separate timelined events. They range from a conference of educators, to webcasts that anyone can join, to targeted events at museums and science centers across the nation. Today the crew participated in the first of these. The first was a linkup with some Educators at an AIAA conference in Ft. Lauderdale. The event went off swimmingly (sorry!) and was recorded live. It's intended for use in science classrooms throughout Broward county (the fifth-largest school district in the nation). The second event was with an audience at our very own Space Center Houston. If you're interested in following along with future events, the NEEMO 6 webcast page shows you when and where.

Finally, the crew journals are starting to roll in. (Forgive the short lag between when the crew submits them and they get posted…) If you're really interested in what life as an aquanaut entails, and the similarities between it and space flight, you might find them interesting.

Thanks for joining us. "Sea" you next time.

- NEEMO Topside Team

Curator: Kim Dismukes | Responsible NASA Official: John Ira Petty | Updated: 07/16/2004
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