Posted: Tuesday, August 1, 2006
Last night was a time for new life on the reef, as clouds of plankton, brine shrimp and fish eggs rained down in front of the viewports all evening. The microscopic creatures were fascinating. Tiny shapes of shrimp, guppies, and crabs floated and lightly oscillated with the waves above.
Occasionally a small jelly fish would join the cloud, or a fish would swim by with its mouth opened. In the morning, Mark told us that the orange cup corals had spawned also. The habitat is covered with an orange coating that looks like a dry sponge. At night, however, it comes alive in stalks of orange feathers of coral that coat the habitat like a cushion.
The aquanauts took advantage of an extra hour of sleep and then got ready for their last dive of the mission. For K2 and Drew, it was also the longest at four hours. The dive started a little late because of helmet communications problems, but the divers made up the time. The first half of the dive consisted of the Exploration Planning and Operations Center (ExPOC) giving directions to the divers to find a simulated cargo ship that had crashed on the moon. The simulated cargo ships were actually two transponders that had been placed the day before. The divers tried two of the moon configurations of the potable life support system (PLSS) mockup suit during the exercise, and rated their performance during each excursion. A simple exercise like falling to your knees once can tell you one thing about a suit, but hiking around in it for an hour, dashing back and forth to tend wayward umbilicals, and using it while your mind is on something else can tell you something completely different. Although it was nowhere close to the sheer strength challenge of the Mars suit, exercising in the moon suit took a bit of effort and stamina.
The second part of the EVA (or extravehicular activity) consisted of repeating the task loop while weighted in the MK12 coverall suits. It was good not to be encumbered with a shoulder-mounted weight belt, but both divers were pretty spent by the time they completed the course six times. In general, all tasks except shoveling were easier with lighter weight. The final course was done with only ten pounds of weight, and both Drew and K2 took advantage of the weightlessness to try bounding and flying around the work area.
In the afternoon, Karen and Koichi completed the survey part of Scenario 1 on their final dive of the mission. They returned to ten of the reefs that the other team (K2 and Drew) had marked on Mission Day 3, and conducted more descriptive analysis of them, and then mapped most of the rest of the work area.
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