Posted: Wednesday, September 20, 2006
Mission: September, 2006 Saturation
We had a great day today on Aquarius. This morning, our first team of divers finished building the first two modules of a tower structure called "LunaSea." The tower is constructed out of PVC pipe, and the pieces are held together with bolts. When it's fully assembled, Lunasea will be about 25 feet tall. This task has been an excellent way for us to learn ways to work together in this very foreign environment.
After a quick lunch, our second team of divers worked on evaluating the effect of changes to the center of gravity of a space suit. Engineers from the Johnson Space Center designed a backpack-like structure for our team to wear which allows different weights to be added. The team members evaluated six of these configurations. It was really interesting to see how just the weight distribution for this simulated space suit could dramatically change how difficult or easy it was to do different activities. For example, it might be very easy to kneel and pick up rocks with a particular configuration while it would be very difficult to jog or run. All of this data will be very useful for the engineers who are designing and building the next generation of space suits. Since there was some extra time at the end of this dive, the second diver team went out to finish constructing the final module of LunaSea. We're now ready to build the base, put the modules together, and raise LunaSea!
We also had the opportunity to use a robotic vehicle that we could either drive on the ocean floor or "fly" around. We learned techniques to control the robot, and we also provided camera support for the dive crew's construction of LunaSea. These camera views help the crewmember in Aquarius and the support team on the surface to improve the coordination of our missions. This kind of work is definitely a team sport!
Our final activities for the day were a couple of individual "hookah" dives. Hookah dives use a normal scuba regulator with an air supply line from Aquarius. Just like our missions with the helmet, we always have an emergency air bottle in case there is a problem with this air supply line. It was quite a strange sensation to go to all the "viewports" (windows) around Aquarius and see our other crewmembers working inside! Since we were out at dusk using a flashlight, it was also surprising to see all the colors of the coral, algae, and other growth on the surface of Aquarius. In the daylight, Aquarius just looks blue-green, but under the bright flashlight, the outside is covered with reds, yellows, and greens. This unexpectedly colorful view of our underwater home, combined with its four-foot long grouper, and schools of literally thousands of small fish, made this hookah dive especially memorable.
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