Posted: Tuesday, August 1, 2006
Mars Day! Today the mission was to test the spacesuit weight configurations as they would feel in the gravity of Mars. The spacesuit used on the moon, NASA's Mk3 advanced space exploration suit, weighs 300 pounds on Earth, which is about 50 pounds on the moon. On Mars, which is 3/8 the gravity of Earth, the suit would weigh 130 pounds As a comparison, a heavy backpack for a long hiking trip weighs 60 to 80 pounds.
The suits are this heavy because they contain life support, steel joint bearings, and 14 layers of pressure suits. On the moon, the weight was manageable. The data collected during the NEEMO mission will help let NASA know if it will be manageable on Mars.
The team conducted the same physical tests as they did for the moon configured suits. The aquanauts experienced a heavy workload during the exercise, feeling like a cross between Godzilla and a professional linebacker. Afterwards, they agreed that working with that amount of weight load on Mars would be extremely difficult.
While the divers were hard at work, ExPOC tried their hand at driving the remotely-operated vehicle (ROV) to find the marked flags. After a few exploratory trips up and down the sand field, they got the hang of it and found the first marker in short order. Although the current wasn't as strong as yesterday, ExPOC could tell the difference between driving with and against it. Overall, the Scuttle was very stable and drove quite well both on the ground and in the air. Koichi was able to fly it up the 15 feet into the wet porch, and Karen showed off her ROV dexterity by grabbing a weight belt that was lying on the bottom. During a later dive, K2 and Karen put a few extra weights into its saddlebags to get an idea for its load limits. After about eight pounds it became mired in the sand. K2 and Karen had a productive afternoon dive retrieving the numbered markers and getting the lay of the land for the second part of the survey exercise.
At lunchtime, K2 participated in a public affairs event that was set up by Fred Gorell of NOAA's Ocean Exploration Program. It was a fun event and included questions from children at the Maryland Science Center in Baltimore who were interested in everything from sharks to spacesuits. It's hard to believe we only have one dive left. Tomorrow will be more weight configuration and exploration scenarios, and then a non-diving day to prepare for the 17-hour decompression that starts Thursday evening.
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