A Standing Army of Virtual Aquanauts
We need to thank the hundreds of people who took the time to create a Zooniverse account (or use their existing one) to help classify features on the reef. It’s been just over a week that the NEEMO-Zooniverse platform (designed by Vizzuality) has been in active beta testing, and we are really excited in the results so far! We see participation from people like you as our means of exploring further in the future!
[caption id=”attachment_5234” align=”alignleft” width=”300” caption=”From NEEMO Facebook page: Engineer diver anchored at our simulated asteroid surface (rock wall).”][![Aquanaut stands sideways on an underwater platform, attached via tether.]][/caption]
I also wanted to give an update on both the mission and the classification tasks. As you may have heard, Hurricane Rina was threatening the Florida Keys last week, before it was broken apart by a significant weather system from the north. During that time, the crew of Aquarius had just settled in and “saturated” with Nitrogen - meaning they require an oxygen prebreathe protocol before returning to a sea level pressure. Since it takes time to prepare for this oxygen protocol, and hurricane preparations take even more time after that, it was decided to cut the mission down from 13 days to only seven. The crewed portion of NEEMO-15 ended last Thursday, but the citizen science continued on!
In just over a week, over 300 citizen scientists discovered over 12,000 features, and confirmed (or disputed) each others observations over 22,000 times. Crowdsourcing techniques such as these are being considered in the overall exploration approach, as NASA plans missions to distant worlds, including asteroids. NEEMO-15’s prime focus was to practice tools and techniques needed to explore an asteroid, so this was the perfect venue for this experiment! During our own beta testing, I couldn’t help imagining looking at pictures of an asteroid and planning a human mission to one, as I examined an endangered coral reef for signs of delicate life.
[caption id=”attachment_5230” align=”alignright” width=”300” caption=”Rough geographic locations of some citizen scientist classifications, overlaid on Google Earth image of the ocean.”][![Small colored circles associated with classifications, in diagonal rows.]][/caption]
The most significant findings in my opinion (probably since I’m not a marine biologist) were the improvements on our exploration technique. Almost immediately, the emerging community of virtual aquanauts began bringing ideas forward to better the interface, improve data flow, and even take better images of the reef. Our extremely responsive team at Vizzuality incorporated many of the suggestions on the spot, while others are planned for future instances.
While the community around NEEMO-Zooniverse was building, we began showing the resultant data to the traverse planners and NASA engineers. Their response was equally as positive and constructive, with the engineers/geologists who took the images having a great exchange on photography techniques, and how to resolve exact locations under the ocean. Exchanging many of the location-based data sets in Google Earth-compatible .kml files made visualization easy and straightforward on multiple platforms. Since many of the components used in this project were developed under an open source license, future versions of this tool will benefit from the contributions of a vibrant developer community as well. All in all we’re extremely pleased with the project as a whole, and are beginning to discuss the next steps in earnest.
To our community of “virtual aquanauts”: Thanks so much for exploring with us! Your work here is shaping the path of our future! Stay tuned as we wrap up the project in the coming days. We’ll continue to leave the site active and take your classifications, comments and feedback, and we’ll report back soon with another update here at open.nasa.gov!
Previous posts about NEEMO:
[Aquanaut stands sideways on an underwater platform, attached via tether.]: http://open.nasa.gov/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Screen-shot-2011-11-02-at-8.28.16-AM-300x217.png [![Aquanaut stands sideways on an underwater platform, attached via tether.]]: http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=213952081957550 [Small colored circles associated with classifications, in diagonal rows.]: http://open.nasa.gov/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Screen-shot-2011-11-02-at-6.48.51-AM-300x202.png [![Small colored circles associated with classifications, in diagonal rows.]]: http://open.nasa.gov/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Screen-shot-2011-11-02-at-6.48.51-AM.png