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IMAGE: NEEMO 7 diver

A NEEMO 7 diver encounters a fish outside of the Aquarius habitat.

*NEEMO 7 Journals
*Aquanaut Profile: Robert Thirsk

NEEMO 7 Journals

NEEMO 7, Robert Thirsk
Day 8, Monday, October 18, 2004

The NEEMO 7 mission experienced one more hardware malfunction. Today one of the hand controllers for the Robo experiment misbehaved.

The Robo hardware performed well a few days ago when we performed the experiment early in the NEEMO 7 mission. Today James Talacek and Billy Cooksey were scheduled to perform their second session of Robo. This is the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) experiment designed to measure degradation of robotic control skills (i.e., hand-eye coordination) in astronauts and other robotic operators.

Before beginning the actual experiment, the two hand controllers for the Robo experiment had to be calibrated. In other words, the experiment computer needed to understand what the 'zero' position was for each of the hand controllers. When Mike Barratt performed the calibration early this morning, he noted that the controller for the right hand calibrated nominally but the one for the left did not. Specifically, a downward deflection of the left hand controller was not recognized by the computer.

There are some hardware failures that a crew can attempt to fix, but others that we can't. After discussing this issue with the Topside Support Team, it was decided to "pot" up the Robo hardware to the surface this afternoon and have the support team attempt to repair or replace the mischievous hand controller.

It was fun to watch James and Billy complete their first Robo session aboard Aquarius several days ago. Neither of them have extensive experience operating robots but they participated in the experiment with enthusiasm. The basic task of the person performing the Robo experiment is to grapple a virtual free-floating satellite with the Canadarm2. That shouldn't be too difficult a task except that this virtual satellite is slowly tumbling. The tumble makes the task challenging.

James and Billy crashed the Canadarm2 into the satellite on several occasions during their initial trials and we had a good laugh. Toward the end of their Robo sessions, however, they were becoming proficient. They are both quick learners (and I discovered from their banter, hooting and hollering that they are also quite competitive with each other in a good-hearted way).

The robotic operating skills of James, Billy and my other aquanaut colleagues as measured several days ago is not important. What is important is the comparison of our skill levels as measured during this mission to our skill level to be re-measured several weeks from now. The CSA wishes to know over what time period a person's skills will deteriorate. The results of this experiment will help the CSA decide when an astronaut aboard the International Space Station will need onboard refresher training and how this training should be provided.

So the Robo hardware failure was a bit of a setback. But we will bounce back. My friend, Marc Garneau, once told me that hardware problems and human errors during spaceflight are inevitable. The fact that they occur is not as important as our reaction to them. I have faith in the resolve of my CSA colleagues to find a way to repair or replace the faulty Robo hand controller. I would love to see the Robo team collect all of their data, and I know that James and Billy are chomping at the bit to grapple the satellite one more time.

Curator: Kim Dismukes | Responsible NASA Official: John Ira Petty | Updated: 10/23/2004
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