Mission Day 5 - New Experiments for Today: PUMA and the SRI Robot
What a neat way to wake up every morning: literally hundreds of fish, some schooling, others darting at each other in an absolutely wonderful dance. Our Aquarius habitat projects light out into dark turquoise green waters that attract our friends throughout the night. The currents that have been moving so fast during the day due to the full moon seem to slacken by morning. The fish are really relaxed. Our habitat technician, James, is the first to wake up every morning and makes his morning radio calls to our friends at the topside support desk who are watching over us through the days and nights. The rest of us rise at 6 a.m. and begin some of the physiological and psychological testing such as cortisol levels and sleep and fatigue questionnaires.
Breakfast was nice as James and Dom shared huge breakfast burritos with us. Others had oatmeal and the ever present dehydrated foods. The cocoa and coffee seem to be going fast, as everyone enjoys a nice warm drink in the morning. Breakfast was easy and everyone seems to want to prepare each other's meals. The rest of the morning chores: do the dishes, brush our teeth, clean up…Twenty minutes later and we are off to the races, setting up robots, getting our updated instructions from our mission support personnel for the day and preparing our dive equipment.
Image above: The undersea habitat "Aquarius" is featured in this image photographed by a NEEMO 12 crew member. Image credit: NASA
You might have seen us each holding small white boxes. These devices are cognitive readiness tests that use simple timers to check our reflexes and response times. Interestingly these times do seem to have increased after our initial splashdown and after each strenuous activity. One of the new experiments that was brought down yesterday was the PUMA, which stands for Portable Unit for Metabolic Analysis. The unit came to us on a mannequin head, so it can be strange to see a mannequin head sitting on the counter. Jose was the first to use this device, which detected his oxygen, carbon dioxide, and with some complex calculations, his overall metabolic rate. While Jose and Heide were running the PUMA experiment, Joe, Tim and James turned the bunk room into a robotic surgical ward, yet again, only this time for the SRI M7 robot.
After the morning medical experiments, Heide and Jose got dressed in dive gear and prepared for another coral survey. Getting ready to go diving is a lot like getting ready to go do any other work. However, in this case, in addition to taking the tools that we need, like a navigation unit to mark the places we find interesting and cameras to take pictures, we also have to protect ourselves against the cold and take our own air with us. Although the water is relatively warm this time of year (about 79-80 deg F), we still rapidly lose the warmth in our bodies as the water conducts the heat away from us, especially when we are in the water for 2-1/2 hours. We have to take our air supply with us as well of course. So, it takes a bit of extra time to get out the door in the morning to go to work.
Heide and Jose's dive this morning was great fun. The visibility was less this morning than we had had earlier in the week and we had difficulty with our radio communications but Joe was able to follow along with the navigation computer and maintain awareness of their position. At the start of every dive, we test an alarm system that uses sound waves through the water to signal the divers to return to the habitat, in case there was an emergency. After the test was completed, Heide and Jose explored out through the coral, taking plenty of pictures of interesting coral for our topside crew to evaluate and make recommendations to return to for further study. The intent of our exploration is to simulate how astronauts would venture out for surveys on the moon. For these exploration scenarios, the aquanaut crews are walking on the bottom and not swimming, just like we would be on the moon.
In the afternoon, Jose and Tim went to specified locations. They revisited some of the locations which Joe and Tim had documented the day before. After Joe and Tim's dive on Thursday, we sent the data and pictures regarding the different locations to the simulated Mission Control. They, in turn, analyzed the data and selected various sites for us to go back to and collect more data, just like we would do on the moon for exploration. Jose and Tim got suited up for the dive and were ready to go. Unfortunately, the navigation equipment was not working properly. So, we resorted to the "old fashioned" way of navigating by a chart, which had the points highlighted. Heide directed as the intravehicular crew person, taking notes on their findings and making sure that they found each site correctly (Jose and Tim were wearing an underwater tracking device so we knew their position from the habitat). Meanwhile, Joe continued the work with the robotic group, this time in Nashville, Tennessee, and ensured the video and computers were running well when the remote surgeons tested the equipment. It is really something to see these robots in action, as they respond to a surgeon's hands that are a thousand miles away. This robot is also special as it will not only allow "tele-surgery," meaning that it responds to commands remotely, but also it can run and perform some surgical procedures on its own. Even our habitat technicians, who are busy all day with maintenance duties inside and outside, are interested in what we are doing and are eager to help. Dom takes a break from his daily outside duties to peek in on the progress inside.
Lots of work and mission still remaining. Thank you all for tuning in on the website and on our dives. We are really happy that you have been able to join us for our exploration mission. There are also so many, many people who are supporting the mission here in Key Largo, and back at the Johnson Space Center as well. We're glad that you can see our work and hope you are able to see some of these really beautiful fish as well.
NEEMO 12 Mission Day 5 Topside Report
Day 5 we were back to focusing on Life Sciences and Exploration objectives. One of the experiments that we are investigating measures and monitors crew metabolic rate changes using a Portable Unit for Metabolic Analysis (PUMA) developed by the NASA Glenn Research Center. Future space exploration mission extravehicular activities will require three independent measurements of metabolic rate and because there is currently no adequate way to directly measure metabolic rate, this study will be a key evaluation of the PUMA calculations and will also provide the opportunity to assess hardware form, fit and function. This mission is the first use of this equipment in a real-time mission environment, and the crew feedback will help optimize future versions for use in space.
Remember those locations of geological interest that were marked a few days ago? After analysis by our resident planetary geologist, several sites were marked for return and more detailed in situ analysis.
Thanks for following along!
-- NEEMO 12 Topside Team
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