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IMAGE: Astronaut Dave Williams
Canadian Space Agency Astronaut Dave Williams trained for NEEMO 7, but was sidelined by a temporary medical issue. The Topside Team calls Williams "one of the unsung heroes of NEEMO 7."
*NEEMO 7 Journals

NEEMO 7 Journals

NEEMO 7, Topside Team
Day 2, Tuesday, October 12, 2004


At about 11:20 this morning, the NEEMO 7 crew had been in saturation for 24 hours. This is an exciting milestone for them because by definition, they truly have become "aquanauts." Also, Bob and Cady join a very small and elite cadre of people including Scott Carpenter, Dave Williams, Mike Gernhardt, Mike Lopez-Alegria, Dan Tani, Mike Fincke, Jeff Williams, Scott Kelly, Rex Walheim, Peggy Whitson and John Herrington, to have both flown in space and lived undersea.

There is something else interesting happening in the habitat today. You may know it as minimal access surgery, laparoscopic surgery, or even keyhole surgery, but no matter what you call it, the crew of NEEMO 7 is performing it in this extreme environment. Still not sure what they are doing? Laparoscopic surgery is a technique for performing complex surgical procedures through very small incisions. Using a device called a laparoscope which is a tiny camera connected to a TV, the surgeons can see inside the human body. The advantage to the patient is enormous: compared to the trauma and long recovery times with traditional open body surgery, the scars and recovery times with minimal access surgery are significantly reduced. However, the surgery inside is exactly the same!

Today the crew performed a procedure called a "laparoscopic cholecystectomy," which basically means removing the gallbladder. We should be clear here that the "patient" for this -- and all the surgeries that will be performed on this mission -- is a very complex and high fidelity surgical dummy (in this case complete with a fake gallbladder). No real aquanauts are being operated on! But what is unique about this operation is the virtual assistance of a surgeon in Canada. This virtual assistance is called telementoring, which is a process in which an experienced surgeon uses two-way video and audio communications, know as video conferencing, to guide the learner through an operation.

In addition to removing a gallbladder, the crew is going to perform an ultrasound using tele-mentoring. Ultrasound uses energy in the form of sound waves. The sound waves are transmitted into the body using an instrument called a transducer or probe. The sound waves are reflected by the internal structures of the body. The differences in reflection by various structures allow the ultrasound to create images.

Now you are probably asking why we are doing this in 60 feet of water? Throughout the mission, our objective is to evaluate the ability to use telementoring to enable remote physicians to aid non-physicians in performing a complex medical procedure that may be required on an emergency basis in an extreme environment, like the International Space Station, on the way to Mars, on the battle field, or in a remote location in Canada.

Finally, one of the unsung heroes of NEEMO 7 has been CSA Astronaut Dave Williams. Williams was the commander of this mission until only one week prior to the mission when he was medically disqualified from diving. Fortunately, it’s a temporary condition and we hope to be diving with him soon on another NEEMO mission. Instead of packing his bags when he found out the news, Dave graciously offered to stay during training and help the topside team in any way he could, and to help bring Bob Thirsk up to speed for his newfound commander role. All of us topside appreciate his unbreakable spirit, can-do attitude, optimism and of course, outdoor grilling ...

Curator: Kim Dismukes | Responsible NASA Official: John Ira Petty | Updated: 10/14/2004
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