Splashdown +2 days
Today we had a really nice mix of exploration and science activities on our schedule. Very busy, but fun stuff. Today was the first day we got to fly the remotely-operated vehicle (ROV) 'Scuttle' around outside the habitat. We flew it as the operator from inside the habitat and our mission support team flew it as the operator remotely from the control center in Houston. We spent some time getting oriented with the flying/handling characteristics of the ROV as well as the system setup to run it. We simulated surveying the local area and picking up some 'lunar' samples to bring back for evaluation. Pretty cool to think about this as an activity in support of going back to the moon.
We supported several educational outreach and PAO events today with schools and reporters from around the country and Canada. It's really neat to see how much interest there is in the NEEMO missions. It gives me hope that that same kind of interest is out there for the space program!
Tim and Dave kicked off the robotic telemedicine activities today, performing the first sessions on the InVivo robot developed by the University of Nebraska /Lincoln. These are pretty cool little robots that would actually go inside the abdomen of the patient to provide the surgeon with better situational awareness and to help minimize the number of incisions made to gain access to the different abdominal areas. For our experiments down here, we have a simulated patient (looks like a silver mailbox with some holes in the top that the laparoscopic instruments are passed through) that houses the materials associated with the different tasks we're doing to simulate surgical tasks. We're doing things like passing a marked string from one forcep to another, stretching and cutting rubberband material in specifically marked places, and stapling different pieces of materials simulating internal organs like an appendix.
One of the highlights of the day was our videoconference with Jeff Williams and Bill McArthur on ISS. It was great to get a chance to talk with them from our undersea home. At the end of the conference they were both playing around doing flips and other microgravity stunts, so we played around on the video and made it look like we were floating around Aquarius. It was pretty funny.