NOAA, NASA begin age of Aquarius

NOAA, NASA begin age of Aquarius

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Aquarius habitat went live today 62 feet underwater off the Florida coast for an 11-day experiment in remote robotic telesurgery and spacelike maneuvers.

In cooperation with NASA, the Canadian Space Agency and several universities, the six-member habitat crew and a remote Canadian surgeon will operate commercial robotic medical equipment during the NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operation 7 [see GCN story].

They communicate with mission control in Key Largo, Fla., about nine miles away, via videocams over a secure, 45-Mbps wireless point-to-point network. A high-grade, multiprotocol-label-switching virtual private network from Cisco Systems Inc. connects them to the Canadian physician.

Three of the NEEMO 7 crew are themselves physicians working on remote surgical methods for emergencies on the International Space Station and future space missions.
Dr. Bob Thirsk will practice endoscopic removal of a gallbladder from a simulated patient, with Canadian Dr. Mehran Anvari advising him remotely. Virtual-reality technology translates the doctors' hand movements to guide the surgical robot.

The mission webcams require use of ActiveX controls.

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