NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) is an underwater spaceflight analog that allows a true mission-like operational environment and uses buoyancy effects and added weight to simulate different gravity levels. Three missions were undertaken from 2014-2015, NEEMO's 18-20. All missions were performed at the Aquarius undersea research habitat. During each mission, the effects of communication latencies on operations concepts, timelines, and tasks were studied. METHODS: Twelve subjects (4 per mission) were weighed out to simulate near-zero or partial gravity extravehicular activity (EVA) and evaluated different operations concepts for integration and management of a simulated Earth-based science team (ST) to provide input and direction during exploration activities. Exploration traverses were preplanned based on precursor data. Subjects completed science-related tasks including pre-sampling surveys, geologic-based sampling, and marine-based sampling as a portion of their tasks on saturation dives up to 4 hours in duration that were designed to simulate extravehicular activity (EVA) on Mars or the moons of Mars. One-way communication latencies, 5 and 10 minutes between space and mission control, were simulated throughout the missions. Objective data included task completion times, total EVA times, crew idle time, translation time, ST assimilation time (defined as time available for ST to discuss data/imagery after data acquisition). Subjective data included acceptability, simulation quality, capability assessment ratings, and comments. RESULTS: Precursor data can be used effectively to plan and execute exploration traverse EVAs (plans included detailed location of science sites, high-fidelity imagery of the sites, and directions to landmarks of interest within a site). Operations concepts that allow for pre-sampling surveys enable efficient traverse execution and meaningful Mission Control Center (MCC) interaction across communication latencies and can be done with minimal crew idle time. Imagery and contextual information from the EVA crew that is transmitted real-time to the intravehicular (IV) crewmember(s) can be used to verify that exploration traverse plans are being executed correctly. That same data can be effectively used by MCC (across comm latency) to provide meaningful feedback and instruction to the crew regarding sampling priorities, additional tasks, and changes to the EVA timeline. Text / data capabilities are preferred over voice capabilities between MCC and IV when executing exploration traverse plans over communication latency.
Space Sciences (General)
IEEE Aerospace Conference 2016; 5-12 Mar. 2016; Big Sky, MT; United States