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From a project’s smallest steps to humanity’s greatest leaps, NASA’s technical workforce embodies the spirit of Neil Armstrong’s immortal words from the surface of the Moon, boldly pushing the envelope of human achievement and scientific understanding. In our podcast, Small Steps, Giant Leaps, APPEL Knowledge Services talks with systems engineers, scientists, project managers and thought leaders about challenges, opportunities, and successes.

NASA’s Bill Todd and Joyce Abbey and retired Astronaut Nicole Stott discuss NEEMO and a new case study they developed about the unique undersea analog.

NEEMO – the NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations project – is a NASA analog mission that sends groups of astronauts, engineers and scientists to live in Aquarius, the world’s only undersea research station, for up to three weeks at a time. A new NASA case study, “Going to Extremes NEEMO Case Study,” delves into the connection between space and sea and examines mission development, lessons learned, relevance, safety and funding.

In this episode of Small Steps, Giant Leaps, you’ll learn about:

  • History, successes and relevance of NEEMO
  • What’s involved in developing a meaningful case study
  • The importance of including the human element of a technical effort in a case study

 

Related Resources

Going to Extremes NEEMO Case Study

NEEMO

NEEMO 9 Crew Interview: Nicole Stott – Mission Specialist

International Space Station Expedition 20/21

STS-128

APPEL Course:

Pay It Forward: Capturing, sharing and Learning NASA Lessons (APPEL-vPIF)

 

Joyce Abbey Credit: NASA

Joyce Abbey
Credit: NASA

Joyce Abbey is the Johnson Space Center Knowledge Management Office Case Study Chief Investigator detailing significant aerospace events to extract lessons learned to apply to current and future NASA programs. Abbey also serves as the Safety & Mission Assurance (S&MA) Engineering Contract Employee Communications/External Relations Director for SAIC. After spending time in the nonprofit sector, she began her aerospace career working in mission operations on ascent/abort for the Space Shuttle Program. Joining the S&MA team in 1990, Abbey further broadened her aerospace experience with space shuttle hardware, resource management, and organizational planning and development. July 3, 2020 was named “Joyce Abbey Day” in the City of Nassau Bay — her hometown — in honor of her work to recognize and celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first lunar landing. She has a bachelor’s in psychology from Stephen F. Austin State University.

 

 

 

 

Nicole Stott Credit: NASA

Nicole Stott
Credit: NASA

Nicole Stott is an artist and retired astronaut who creatively combines the awe and wonder of her spaceflight experience with her artwork. Stott is a veteran NASA Astronaut with two spaceflights and 104 days living and working in space as a crewmember on both the International Space Station and the space shuttle. She was the 10th woman to perform a spacewalk. Stott is also a NASA Aquanaut. In preparation for spaceflight, she was a crewmember on an 18-day saturation dive mission at the Aquarius undersea laboratory. Stott is the founder of the Space for Art Foundation — uniting a planetary community of children through the inspiration of space exploration and the healing power of art. Her first book, titled “Back to Earth,” is scheduled to be published in 2021 by Hachette Book Group/Seal Press. Stott has a bachelor’s in aeronautical engineering from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and a master’s in engineering management from the University of Central Florida.

 

 

 

Bill Todd Credit: NASA

Bill Todd
Credit: NASA

Bill Todd is the NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) Project Manager and has led 21 undersea exploration and research missions with 61 astronauts/aquanauts, supporting hundreds of experiments involving government, industry and academia. Todd developed and manages the NASA Undersea Research Team for missions at Aquarius, the world’s only undersea research station. A veteran aquanaut of five NEEMO missions, Todd worked as an Astronaut Instructor for numerous missions, including the STS-31 flight that deployed the Hubble Space Telescope and the first two flights to build the International Space Station. He has also worked as an Operations Lead at the Mission Control Center in Moscow, Russia. Todd has a bachelor’s in geoscience and paleontology from the University of Houston.


Transcript

Joyce Abbey: NEEMO’s lasted so long because it could adapt and be flexible and pivot to address the skills needed to do those tasks, whether it’s going to Mars, whether it’s going back to the lunar surface.

Bill Todd: The reason that we believe in this analog, and I believe that it’s been successful, is because it is so similar to spaceflight. Living in the undersea, it’s a complicated, isolated world.

Nicole Stott: Underwater, it’s like you’re surrounded by the planet, and when you go to space, it’s like you’re surrounding the planet. You’re in outer space now, and it’s kind of this more macro view of it, but I think ultimately, what it results in is just this appreciation for the place we share as a home, and sometimes it does take opening up your eyes to the awe and wonder kind of in an extreme way around you to really appreciate that

Host: Welcome back to Small Steps, Giant Leaps, a NASA APPEL Knowledge Services podcast where we tap into project experiences to share best practices, lessons learned and novel ideas.

I’m Deana Nunley.

The NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations project – or NEEMO – is a NASA analog mission that sends groups of astronauts, engineers and scientists to live for up to three weeks at a time in Aquarius, the world’s only undersea research station. Aquarius is located three and a half miles off Key Largo in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and operated by Florida International University.

The undersea world – much like space – is a hostile place for humans to live, and NEEMO aquanauts experience some of the same challenges they would face on a distant asteroid, planet or moon.

NEEMO Project Manager Bill Todd, Retired Astronaut Nicole Stott and NASA Johnson Space Center Knowledge Management Office Chief Investigator for Case Studies Joyce Abbey recently collaborated to develop a NEEMO case study. And Bill, Nicole and Joyce join us now to discuss NEEMO and the case study.

Thanks so much for being our guests on the podcast.

Abbey: Thank you for having us.

Stott: Nice to be here.

Host: Joyce, what prompted you to write a NEEMO case study?

Abbey: Well, every year I get together with my JSC Knowledge Management Office counterparts and we do some brainstorming. And one of the subjects that came up for a possible case study was analogs, and I’m aware of these different analogs that JSC and the agency has. But one near and dear to my heart happens to be NEEMO, and that’s because I know the project manager, and I’ve been following along on a lot of the NEEMO adventures and even got to sit in on an educational outreach event where we spoke to the NEEMO crew on a particular mission. So it seemed like a perfect, perfect analog to focus on.

Host: Bill, what do you like about having the NEEMO story captured in the case study format?

Todd: Well, first of all, I like having Joyce Abbey, my good friend since high school, working with me on a project, so that’s always fun. Yeah. Typically, what we see is folks that want to do something about NEEMO, they talk about the who, what and when of the mission and show a lot of imagery in it, and it’s cool stuff. But what I was really fascinated by, and it piqued my interest when Joyce talked to me about this, was that she had done an exceptional amount of work on the how and why. ‘How do we accomplish these missions and why are we doing them?’ and what the relevance is and the appropriateness. So that was really interesting to me, and the fact that she delved deeper, so to speak, was really what mattered to me.

Host: Nicole, do you think this case study helps people to get the full picture of NEEMO?

Stott: Well, I’m counting on it. The two people that you just heard from that are pulling it together, you couldn’t find anyone better to do it, and I think that it does round out the full story, like Bill just said. I think that was Joyce’s intent from the very beginning, and it’s a really important story to tell. There’s so much that I think is surprising about the way we explore space, that going to live and work undersea might be one of the most surprising things about it. And as missions themselves that stand alone with value on their own, I think that’s even more significant, and people should know about it on all levels of what it’s about.

Abbey: And, Deana, I do want to say that it wasn’t just capturing and diving deeper into NEEMO, but really showing its relevancy to what we’re doing today in space and what we’ll do tomorrow, and really getting a grasp on what Bill’s intent is with NEEMO, that each one of these missions is truly a mission with objectives and goals, and most importantly, capturing those lessons learned from their experiences that could serve us today and, of course, in the future, as we continue space exploration.

Host: Well, those are really good points, Joyce, and part of our activity today, we more or less want to deconstruct the case study. And I think part of it is, once you decided that this was a topic that you wanted to capture in a case study, what kind of exercise did you go through to come up with an outline or a framework to tell the story?

Abbey: Well, I typically do my normal outline capturing any risk mitigation plans. I do a lot of research on the background so I can tell a little bit of the history, some of the challenges, and most importantly, lessons learned. And then I basically throw that out the window. Every time I interview a principal, I am surprised by something they may say. We may have our conversation go in a completely different direction, or there may be something they highlight in our conversation that I want to dive deeper into. It wasn’t too hard to have a decent outline to begin with for NEEMO, but I let Bill and Nicole and the other individuals I interview kind of take me on this journey, and that really informs what that outline will look like and how I build the different components of the case study, and of course, most importantly, capturing those lessons learned.

Host: Anybody else with any thoughts on your involvement as far as pulling this together and making it into a case study?

Stott: I’ll just add, I’m happy to have been invited to participate in it, and I think by the way Joyce approaches these things, it’s not an independent study, right? It’s going out and it’s looking at these topics kind of at a human level too, involving the humans, the people that were actually involved with them. One of my greatest, I think the greatest gifts I had in astronaut training was the opportunity to participate in one of these missions, and it honestly opened my eyes up to what it was going to be like, prepared me as it was intended to for flying in space, but it gave me other gifts too. Just this whole new perspective on the world around me, the ability, the opportunity to live actually in the planet, under the water of the planet for an extended period of time and appreciate that. So I think there’s aspects of the mission and of the program that will come out just by that approach that Joyce and Bill have had to this, that are because it’s a human thing that’s going on.

Todd: Yeah. It is a human thing, and I think for me, Joyce’s approach that she took when coming to me to talk about it was not so much a list of questions. It was more a conversation. It was more about, ‘Hey, Bill, how did this happen? How did you get involved in this, and what motivated you to want to do this type of thing? How did you determine that this could be something that was viable?’ And we just had a conversation about it, and when you do that, when you open it up and you just allow people to express themselves, and oftentimes maybe too much, too long a conversation, but in there, there’s some nuggets of importance on why we’re doing these things, and that type of methodology, I think, is very good for capturing the types of details in the how and why we’re doing the NEEMO missions.

Abbey: Thanks Bill. I do want to say that I particularly selected Nicole so that we could talk about NEEMO and how the experience there compared to her first journey to the International Space Station. And that was rather important. And of course, with Bill, you could not have a story about NEEMO without Bill. But letting him guide me, I do come up with a list of questions, but oftentimes our conversations, and that’s truly what I want it to be, a conversation, a dialogue, that leads us to a completely different journey than I had intended.

I know NEEMO is so much more than the case study, and visually, I think it resonates emotionally with a lot of people, and technically. And that’s one thing with case studies I prefer personally, is the human element that’s involved in a technical effort or an engineering feat or whatever it may be. I think we can write technical papers all the time, and sometimes NASA does a great job communicating technically, but we don’t connect to the more human side of things, and we don’t express a story in a layman’s term that someone could just pick up, not having an electrical engineering background or not having operations in space background, but really understand what’s happening, why it’s important and what we’ve learned from it.

Host: You’re talking about the importance of the human aspect of the case study. Another striking feature with the NEEMO case study is that it’s based on successes. A lot of times, case studies are based on researching and analyzing a specific problem or failure. A couple of questions: What are your thoughts on the impact of a case study that’s based on successes? And would you recommend this as a model for NASA project managers who may be interested in developing a case study?

Abbey: Well, I would think that this would be — maybe case study on success might not be the way to term it, but a best practice for a particular project, and I would point to NEEMO being that, and that oftentimes we do tend to learn so much from our failures, and that’s a great thing always, and we ignore the things that have been incredibly successful and that NEEMO is one of those things. And I think when modeling a project or an effort, it’s a great idea to study what’s been successful about NEEMO, that it’s lasted for so long, that we’ve had so many breakthroughs with it in technology, as far as it incubating new technology and new experiences.

Stott: I won’t speak for Bill here, because I could never do that very well.

Todd: No, please.

Stott: But I look at it, I think about my own experience with it, and just how wonderful it really was when you look at the whole packaged experience, in terms of preparation, for flying in space, and then the independent mission that it had on its own, the areas of technology we were utilizing and studying and employing as part of the mission. But that success, I think, is built on, I’m stumbling here, but the point that you made about lessons learned, that’s not just something that was this goodness that came out at the end, but there were lessons with our team as we went in that weren’t always probably the best example of how to do something, I’m thinking about us as a crew, as part of the thing, and then learning from that. I think that’s a big part of what goes on with one of these missions and is a goal of it, too. It’s like, ‘Hey, try not to do that in space,’ and learn about it here and then figure out a pathway, a solution forward so when you do encounter something that way in the space environment.

I had times where I thought about things that I experienced, and for me, it was really big in the part of it. We were on a training day, Bill, I remember this, and we were all swimming back, we had been deep and we were going back up to where the boat was going to be, and for some reason, my BC did something wacky and it was taking me up. I was trying to get back down. It was pulling me up, and I remember Otto just looking at me with this look on his face like he was going to kill me. Like, ‘What is she doing going up?’ And it’s like, ‘I’m trying to get back down. I’m trying to get back down.’ But because one of the ultimate failures as a crew member on a saturated dive mission would be to surface, and I did not want to be that person, but it helped me throughout the mission from that point on really thinking more about my own equipment, about the situational awareness of everyone and everything around me, in a way that was much more sensitive, I think, than I had been up to that point, and that was not a success on my part. That was a failure on my part that got me there.

Todd: Well, yeah, I don’t know that it’s necessarily failure, but I think you guys make some great points, going back to the original point about how we measure success, and I think Joyce’s point about lessons learned is critically important. It’s the way that we deal with lessons that have been learned, and certainly one aspect of it is failure along the way. Things are going to fail. The reason that we believe in this analog, and I believe that it’s been successful, is because it is so similar to spaceflight. Living in the undersea, it’s a complicated, isolated world. Things break just like they do in space, and that’s just given to us.

My background is a simulation supervisor, where I got paid basically to break stuff. Well, I don’t have to do that. Things just break. It’s very similar to being on a mission, but when you have failures, it’s very important that you keep track of what they are and you go back and you iterate and you make corrections to those, so that the next mission or the next day, that you can respond to whatever failure it was and you can improve upon and then learn.

I think another important thing is to be flexible and adaptable, and NEEMO’s been fairly resilient over the years and flexible. We started off mostly in the shuttle years, and we grew to working in the space station and then Mars and the Moon and asteroid, and we’ve been able to pivot at different points and work on different extreme environments and focus toward answering questions to be able to adapt to those environments. I think that’s really important to be flexible and nimble at all times and make sure that you’re always looking out for the customer and doing what the customer needs you to do, not what you want to do as an individual or a team.

Lastly, I think for me, I’ve been very fortunate. I’ve had a partner now in crime that I’ve worked with for over 30 years, Mark Reagan. We grew up in spaceflight training together, and we started this whole NEEMO thing some 20 years ago together, and having a team of people that grew up in the operations environment as instructors and as flight controllers and in engineering and in life sciences gives you the background that you can develop an analog like this to be as realistic as possible, because we’re familiar with what it is like in space, to be there, with the procedures, what the protocol is like, and then ultimately, we understand the safety issues and the consequences of the safety issues, and we focus heavily on making sure that we do safe missions so that we can be successful.

Abbey: Bill, you made several points there that really were, I hope, expressed in the case study. It is that always maintaining relevance, regardless of what NASA’s goal is. It may be to land on an asteroid. NEEMO’s lasted so long because it could adapt and be flexible and pivot to address the skills needed to do those tasks, whether it’s going to Mars, whether it’s going back to the lunar surface, and always keeping relevancy in mind, and then it just happened to be a happy coincidence that we’re celebrating 20 years of humans onboard the ISS, and NEEMO’s celebrating 20 years of missions.

Todd: That’s right.

Abbey: I don’t think you could have a program that wasn’t truly relevant to what we’re trying to accomplish as an agency with human spaceflight, and that wasn’t important for the human element to actually bring those aquanauts onboard to conduct these missions, and some of these missions actually took technology that eventually ended up on the International Space Station. So really maintaining that relevancy for not only the NASA mission, but every individual NEEMO mission. That was really crucial and a point that Bill expressed early on to me, and hopefully stands out in the case study.

Todd: Well, I think Nicole can address this as well, as she did an 18-day mission undersea, and had a lot of opportunity to perform experiments and interact with her crew, but as far as the relevance is concerned, it’s not just that you provide answers to questions that exploration of the Moon or Mars that we have, and we can tie them to goals and objectives. It’s not just that, but it’s also that the training we provide for the Astronaut Office, the opportunity that we provide for the astronauts is relevant. We don’t ever want to put a crew in a situation where we give them make work and we just keep them busy in this isolated environment.

To be real, we need to be doing real things, real experiments, real objective, real construction, real communication that answers questions that’s going to help us make it to the Moon or Mars because a highly educated crew member, like they all are, they’re going to see through that very quickly if they’re performing tasks that aren’t relevant and they’re not real. So we work very hard to make sure that our partners, whether they be medical doctors or engineers, or from other NASA centers, when we bring them all together, that we’re all working from the same page and making sure that everything we’re doing makes sense and is appropriate for both the undersea mission and whatever our end goal may be.

Stott: And that, Bill, what both of you have said is huge, and I love the word relevance, because I think it applies across the board with this, is that not only is it a relevant environment, it truly is an extreme environment. You’re in a position where as a crew, you have to deal with the things that go wrong in that space, that going the surface is not the option. And that same thing is true in space. The relatively confined habitat that you’re in, that lifestyle, but when it comes to the mission itself, not just physically being able to do the tasks, if they were just kind of fakey things to keep us occupied, but psychologically, there’s a huge aspect to that of knowing that you’re doing meaningful, constructive, valuable, worthwhile work while you’re participating in this training mission, and that’s why I could almost just take the training off the front and just put, ‘While you’re participating in this mission,’ because it is standalone, but it also totally applies in every way. I think we could argue in every way to what a crew member will experience in space, and I would add whether you’re going to the station or back to the Moon and onto Mars, it’s a perfect analog to it.

Todd: You make some great points, and Nicole, we never use the word simulation involving this, because there’s nothing simulated at NEEMO. When you’re living on the sea floor 65 feet undersea at saturation, and saturation basically means that your body has become saturated with nitrogen. You cannot leave that environment. You can’t go back to the surface unless you’ve gone through the whole decompression profile, and that takes about 15 hours, which coincidentally, is about, Nicole, about close to what it takes for an emergency de-orbit, so they’re pretty close. So you can’t just get up and leave the habitat. You can’t trick your mind into believing you’re somewhere that’s extreme. It knows. It knows that you’re there, and both physiologically and psychologically, you have to adapt to being in that environment, and I think that’s one of the reasons that it works for us so well, is because it is real and there’s nothing simulated about it.

Host: So interesting getting to hear all of you talk about your different perspectives of NEEMO, and Bill, one of your quotes in the case study says that at an early age, you formulated the idea that sea and space are very similar, and recognized synergies between the extreme environments. How did that ultimately influence development of NEEMO?

Todd: Yeah, that’s a great question. That hearkens back to my youth, and I grew up in Cocoa Beach, Florida during the ‘I Dream of Jeannie’ days, and it was, of course, during the Apollo days, and I was there during both Apollo successes and Apollo failures, and it was a great place to grow up. But come Sunday night, for me, it was all about the ‘Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau,’ and I was glued to the black and white TV, and I spent time snorkeling and diving in the Florida Keys when I was really young. And I just happened to be around all the Apollo astronauts. I just grew up in a space family, and these undersea explorers, one of them a very good friend of my father’s, was Scott Carpenter.

Scott, from an early age, he had been on Mercury and SEALAB, and he was a huge influence to me for the undersea part, and my father being part of the space program just kind of meshed in my mind that these two environments, they were always having to deal with the same types of things. And at the end of the day, they were both adventurous and they were both fun. They were both environments that I thought would be a great place to make a living and do wonderful things, and my motivation was, ‘How can I do these two things? How can I meld these two things and do that for my life’s work?’ I guess it just kind of worked out.

It started from a very early age through my whole career. I’ve been fortunate to have people that were influential in sea and space around me and willing to talk to me and guide me and help me learn, and that’s kind of been my passion, my life. I don’t really know how to play golf. I don’t go golfing on the weekends. It sounds like a lot of fun, but my golf, so to speak, is sea and space and the synergy between those two things, and learning all I can about undersea habitation and driving submersibles and living and working in these extreme places, and that’s my passion, and that’s what drives me.

Host: Yeah, Bill, I can see that. Your passion really does come through. Nicole, as someone who has lived and worked in both of these extreme places, what are your impressions of the experience?

Stott: Wow. Yeah. You know, I could spend all day talking about that. Nobody wants to hear it, really.

Todd: I do.

Stott: I think the word ‘blessed’ came up back there along the way. I think that’s what I feel. Really, honestly, truly fortunate and thankful that I got to experience both of those, and I think Bill said this was the first time I ever heard this whole idea of inner space and outer space, and when we were getting ready to do the NEEMO mission and during the training, there’s a really wonderful chart that he and Mark show that has a spacewalker and then somebody in their gear working on the sea floor, and then just the habitat and the space station, and this whole idea of inner space and outer space. That really impacted me. It took me, I guess, a little bit longer to understand that synergy that Bill grew up with and just felt in him, but as soon as you recognize it, holy moly, you just get it. There’s no denying the way these two play together.

But I think in kind of more of the human side of it, again, is that the opportunity to experience those two extreme environments in such a glorious way, almost. I have these memories inside of the habitat of the lights off at night and looking out as the barracuda were coming in, and around dinner time where there was the two ginormous grouper out our window, and just feeling like I was getting to witness this life around me in a way I’d never experienced before, and might not ever again.

The same was true in space. Underwater, it’s like you’re surrounded by the planet, and when you go to space, it’s like you’re surrounding the planet. You’re in outer space now, and it’s kind of this more macro view of it. But I think ultimately, what it results in is just this appreciation for the place we share as a home, and sometimes it does take opening up your eyes to the awe and wonder kind of in an extreme way around you to really appreciate that, if that makes sense.

Host: Absolutely. You’ve talked a little bit about how the NEEMO missions have contributed to space missions. Are there other ways that come to mind that NEEMO has been a real contributor to human spaceflight?

Todd: That goes in a lot of different directions. Some things are very big and some things are minor and personal, and I think that one of the main things that, a lot of times, people don’t see and don’t really realize is the opportunity for the development of the people that are in the project. There’s a lot of times that people come to the end of the project and they’re enjoying it, and it adds a whole other dimension to their knowledge base and the way they look at things and what they want to do further in their life. And I think that their opportunity to work with other government agencies and external partners outside of NASA is critical because we do great work at NASA, and oftentimes, we believe that we do it probably better than anybody else, and that’s good. It’s good that we have that confidence and knowledge, because we’re doing difficult things. But it’s also important to realize that there’s other organizations, the U.S. Navy, for instance, that are doing similar things, working in extreme environments and have objectives that they have to complete, and they have to be safe about doing them, and the way they go about doing it may be completely different than the way we are.

So, we can take away a lot of lessons from working with these other partners and come back and it makes us stronger as an agency and makes us stronger as individuals, and these opportunities that we really don’t always get in other positions working for the space program.

Abbey: You know, Deana, one thing I found really interesting was people seem to be drawn to NEEMO. One of the individuals I interviewed was a co-op student who had provided some undersea tools, or EVA tools, if you will, for NEEMO, and when he was eventually hired on at NASA, his goal was to work as a part of NEEMO, to contribute to NEEMO, and did everything that he could to prepare himself for that, and was eventually successful and moved on to great contributions in the EVA tools world and operations world.

So, I think NEEMO instigates a passion. If you work for NASA, typically you already have a passion for space exploration, but NEEMO can distill that even further and show you unique ways that you can contribute to that. And I think it’s a great leadership or a skills development tool for personnel. It’s not an easy job, as he told me. You’re working hard. It sounds like a great time being in the Florida Keys, but it’s challenging, and the folks who are most successful at it have the same passion that they do for space exploration, and it really, I think, further distills that for them.

Host: Really interesting. How does NEEMO factor into NASA’s plans for future human missions to the Moon and Mars?

Todd: Well, right now we’re part of the Exploration Program, and of course it’s a little bit slow this year with everything that’s going on, but what we do for the Artemis and the Gateway programs and what we’re looking at is very specific, clear objectives, and we look at those, oftentimes, their operational objectives on the lunar or Martian surface, we look at those objectives and we see what we need to accomplish and what out of those objectives can we do in NEEMO that makes sense, that is appropriate and relevant. There is quite a few of those operational objectives, such as how we operate on the Moon with a rover and how we communicate and how we perform scientific tasks and how we navigate on the Moon. A lot of those types of things, and dealing with lighting conditions.

All of those can be appropriately done on a NEEMO mission, and that’s what we’re focusing on. There’s other places besides NEEMO that are really good for looking at other aspects, and we let other places such as the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory, they do a great job for what they look at, and some other locations. So I think it really comes down to finding out what you’re good at and finding the objectives that NASA needs to answer, the questions it needs to answer, and then focusing on those and streamlining those down and making sure that you come back with a deliverable, come back with a product that has answered some relevant questions for our exploration needs.

Abbey: You know, Bill, you point on something there that we really haven’t talked about, and that is keeping your customer in mind, bringing value to your customer, whether it’s a researcher or principal investigator, scientist, a NASA director that has a technology development question they’re trying to answer, but always keeping the customer in mind, and I think that, again, also points to NEEMO remaining relevant, because that is part of its main tenets, its core value, is what value do we bring to our customer? Whether it’s an Astronaut Office, technology development, medical research, those types of things, keeping all those things in mind have allowed NEEMO to last so long and to contribute so much.

Todd: That’s a good point, Joyce, and we run NEEMO like a business. We do. We are careful about the way we spend money. We want to make sure that there’s a return on the client’s and customer’s investment, that they get some strong things out of it, and it’s a two-way street. People like working with NASA, and it’s OK to capitalize in it. That’s what’s great, but at the same time, we never want to take advantage of these situations. We want to make sure that the people we’re working with get good value out of what they’re doing and they get a good return and get questions answered that they need to answer. So following strong business practices and maintaining flexibility and relevancy is what has enabled us to continue to be successful.

Host: Well, I have really enjoyed getting to talk with the three of you today, getting to learn more about the case study and about NEEMO as well. Thank you so much for joining us on the podcast.

Abbey: It’s my pleasure.

Todd: Yep. Absolutely. It’s been enjoyable, and I want to thank you and your team, and Joyce for pulling this together. And I want to thank the people that have participated in NEEMO for the last 20 years. It’s been very fruitful for me, very rewarding, and hopefully we can continue for some more years.

Stott: As one of those people, Bill, I say thank you to you for the opportunity to have been a part of it. As I hope all of you can tell, it’s not something that just impacts your ability to go fly in space, but it has an impact — I guess I can only speak for myself, but on the rest of my life, it really has been influential that way, and I hope that many more people have the opportunity to experience in preparation for their own space flights, but it just is kind of a really life-changing experience as well.

Host: You’ll find links to topics discussed on the show, including a link to the NEEMO case study, on our website at APPEL.NASA.gov/podcast, along with Nicole, Joyce and Bill’s bios and a transcript of today’s episode.

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