CAVES Training Day 1

By Andreas Mogensen Monday morning 8:00 am and we are already slightly behind schedule! Our introductory classes from Sunday evening had to be postponed due to delayed flights. Perhaps not surprising when a multinational group of astronauts have to arrive simultaneously from the USA, Russia, Canada, Japan, and Germany. But it is a small price to pay for the opportunity to train with astronauts and cosmonauts representing all of the international partners behind the ISS program. Our multinational backgrounds and their relation to human behaviour and performance were the focus of our morning lessons. International cooperation is one of the most important achievements of the ISS program and a primary reason for...

#Shenanigans09

In The Matrix, one of my favourite movies, Neo is walking up a set of stairs when he spots a black cat in a corridor. The cat disappears around a corner only to reappear in the corridor a few seconds later. Neo casually dismisses it as a case of déjà vu. However, Morpheus and Trinity immediately recognize it as a glitch in the Matrix and as a sign of the danger that is about to befall them. The same sort of situational awareness and attention to detail is necessary when you are a member of the Shenanigans 2009 class of ESA astronauts. Is your coffee cup still on the same side of...

Incredible special effects

Editor's note: this is Timothy Peake’s blog during NEEMO 16 The past 24 hours has simply been an incredible experience. And considering that this entire NEEMO 16 mission has so far been an incredible experience that is saying something. About this time last night I was heading out the wet porch with fellow crewmember Steve Squyres for a night dive, with only one objective...to have fun 🙂 Night time underwater is something very special. Having lived with the marine life for several days now we have begun to recognize their routine. As the sun goes down, the fish start to get excited. Small larvae gather in the external lights of Aquarius and...

NEEMO 16…Teamwork!

Editor's note: this is Timothy Peake’s blog during NEEMO 16 'Good Teamwork' - it's something that makes the difference between winning or losing, success or failure and in extreme cases living or dying. As jargon, 'teamwork' is easy enough to say - much harder to define and it can be a tricky little recipe to create. When everyone is working selflessly towards a common goal...that's a good start...and as a crew member of NEEMO 16 I am witnessing daily so many fantastic examples of great teamwork. Often it's the little things that make all the difference, like the thankless task our support divers had removing the trash bags from Aquarius this morning,...

Splashdown!

Editors note: this is Timothy Peake's blog entry reprinted from the NASA Neemo Blog  After months of training and preparation the day finally arrived... Splashdown for NASA's NEEMO 16 mission. The crew woke early, eager to pack the few last remaining items into the 'pots' that our superb support crew, amongst their many other tasks, would be taking down to the Aquarius habitat ahead of our arrival. The atmosphere on the Key Largo dockside this morning was buzzing with activity, conversation and good humour. The NEEMO mission team had gathered to say farewell to the saturation crew - and despite our intense excitement at what lay ahead we were genuinely sorry to say...

Leonardo and the guardian angels

If you ever have a chance to visit NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL) – and it’s well worth a visit - you will notice a brightly coloured painting on the wall of the main control room. On the left side is an unusual depiction of Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man, which seamlessly fades into a human being in the same pose, but dressed in a white spacewalker’s EMU. That’s the Extravehicular Mobility Unit, or simply “the suit”. I love how this painting strikes a connection between human spaceflight and Leonardo, a figure who explored the potential of the human genius in engineering, art and the observation of nature. I wish I could...

We expect the best, but prepare for the worse

Most astronauts dream of having the opportunity to perform a spacewalk at least once in their career and I am no exception to that rule. There’s something appealing about the idea of leaving behind the relative safety of the Space Station wearing your own little spaceship, about the thought of driving bolts while oceans and continents majestically pass by, about the challenge presented by the most physically and mentally demanding activity ISS crewmembers are confronted with. There are also specific risks inherent to a spacewalk and one of the most dreaded scenarios involves a spacewalker going unconscious due to a medical issue or a malfunction of the pressurized suit. Over 150 spacewalks...

Outdoor staircases and brain gymnastics

I’ve been in Montreal for a week now, staying in the charming neighborhood of Plateau Mount Royal and spending full days of robotics training at the Canadian Space Agency. I haven’t ventured far beyond the commute route so far, except for the brief stroll to nearby cafés for breakfast, a little daily ritual that has progressively shifted later in the mornings as I have slowly digested the six-hour time shift from Europe. I have taken great pleasure in exploring the little quaint streets flanked by trees and row houses, each with a unique façade and with an outdoor staircase leading to an independent entrance on the second floor. Straight or curved, simple...

NEEMO 16 – In search of an asteroid

Welcome aboard the NEEMO 16 mission! Destination: Asteroid, deep space Date: 11-22 June 2012 Earlier this year I was fortunate enough to be assigned to NASA’s Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) 16th mission to an underwater habitat called ‘Aquarius’, which lies about 20m under the ocean and nearly 8 miles off Florida’s Key Largo coast. Over the years, NEEMO missions have been used by NASA to provide vital research and development data to support future exploration missions. Living underwater is an excellent space analog – the crew can practice EVA (‘spacewalk’) techniques using neutral buoyancy in water, whilst Aquarius offers an environment similar to a spacecraft: confined living space, total reliance on...

No molecule shall stand still!

As part of my training on the systems of the International Space Station (ISS) I have passed my ECLSS exam a couple of weeks ago at Johnson Space Center in Houston. ECLSS is the Environmental Control and Life Support System and is one of the ISS systems that the crew interacts most with. What nature does for us when we are on the planet, we have to engineer for ourselves when we are in space. Things like water or waste management are very much on our minds on Earth as well, as we realize that we might be pushing the limits of nature’s ability to support our needs. But how about something...

Robotics

As an avid Science fiction reader, the word robotics used to remind me of two things: Isaac Asimov’s literary universe (with the famous 3 laws that he created), or the wonderfully conceived duo of C3PO and R2D2, made famous by Star Wars (contrary to a common belief, not all astronauts are fans of Star Trek…). However, that word assumed a whole new meaning to me shortly after starting training as an astronaut, 2 years ago. My first encounter with the world of robotics has a name: B.O.R.I.S. This robotic arm only exists in the virtual world of computer based training, and all astronauts train initially on this simplified version of a real...

If you’re working hard, you’re working too hard!

EVA training in the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL) is hard work, especially when you are very inexperienced (like me!) and you still need to learn how not to fight against the suit, how to optimize your movements, how make things easier for yourself. “If you’re working hard, you’re working too hard” is what veteran spacewalker Suni Williams likes to say. One of many great pieces of advice she gave me last Tuesday, when she found the time to get in the suit to coach me in my second EVA run. However… easier said than done. For my entire run I was at maximum cooling, with 75GPH of water flowing in my Liquid...

Patches, Watches, and Sunglasses, episode I: the patch

Patches, like watches and sunglasses, are a pilot’s thing. Worn on flight suits, leather jackets, or T-shirts, pinned on corridor walls or printed out on coffee mugs for the briefing room or the squadron mess, they are part of the decorum at every group of flyer’s hideout. They usually convey messages for the happy few who know how to read them, and if sometimes the message is encoded with an esoteric subtlety, sometimes… well, not that much (like that patch of a squadron whose name or country of origin I won’t mention, proudly sporting the motto “pulling G’s” above a stylized bulldog actively pulling on…a poor lady's G-string clenched between his teeth....

A day as a cyborg

On March 5th I had my first suited EVA training event in the Neutral Buoyancy Lab in Houston. Here are some impressions from that special day. Days like today don’t happen often. Days when you experience something radically new. Days when unusual constraints force you to rethink your interaction with the environment, when your brain learns to give new meaning to sensory information, when your muscles acquire new patterns of movement to overcome previously unknown impediments. Days when you learn to be a cyborg. On such days even your eyes can betray you for a moment. As the crane lowers me into the water of NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Lab, it takes a...