Posted: Sunday, September 24, 2006
Image: NEEMO 11 crew member works near the undersea habitat "Aquarius" during a session of extravehicular activity (EVA) for the NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) project. Image credit: NASA
Well, it was another busy day here under the ocean. We had three scheduled dives today so it was our busiest day yet. We got up at our normal wake up time of 6 am, and soon after we had the daily planning conference where we coordinated the surface support for all three dives. The topside team had to set out shortly after the conference since our first dive started early in the morning. Tim and Bob went out first and participated in a study which was trying to determine what the optimal weight of a future planetary-based space suit should be. On the second dive, TJ and Sandy did the same tasks. We were wearing a special suit and vest which allowed the topside surface support divers to place weights in various places and allowed us to remove them as required. With each weight configuration, we ran through a course of activities that included walking, kneeling, lying down and getting back up again, shoveling, moving rocks or weights around and climbing a ladder. The total weight that we started with was related to a certain proportion of our body weight, and then after that we reduced incrementally. It was interesting to note the difference between the various configurations. Of course, you can certainly have too much weight so that it makes it difficult to do tasks, but you can also have too little weight, which prevents you from getting your foot down to the ground to push off. We are hoping that the data we collected will help the design team in identifying the optimal weight.
After everyone was done with their dives for the weight study, we had a really quick lunch and then got Bob and Tim suited up and ready to go back out to finish off the lunar science scenario dive. TJ and Sandy had done part one of this scenario on mission day three and now Bob and Tim were going to complete the data collection. The plan had changed a bit but all had been discussed in the morning conference and the team was ready to go. This was to be our last dive out of Aquarius and we really wanted it to go well. The task for the last dive involved extensive use of the underwater navigational aid. The mission control team was hoping that we could take some new points and also repeat some points. In general, the idea was to build a map of the area around Aquarius using the means that we have on hand. After the guys left the wet porch, loaded down with the navigational aid, underwater camera, and the coral science tools, the support divers came down and outfitted them with the center of gravity rigs. Not only were Tim and Bob completing the coral science work, but at the same time they were to evaluate two of the center of gravity configurations. Definitely a busy day! The dive went well and we were able to collect most of the data that the mission control folks had requested. When the guys came up into the wet porch that last time, we were kind of sad, knowing that we were not going to be able to walk around on the bottom of the ocean. At the same time, we also had a great feeling of accomplishment, knowing that we had done a lot during our five days of diving.
Just like the feeling of floating in space, it is hard to describe what it feels like to walk around on the bottom of the ocean. The ocean is teeming with life and it is something that you do not think about every day. There are fish of all kinds of varieties, shapes, sizes, and colors just in the small area around Aquarius. The variety and color of the coral is also amazing. When you are walking along the bottom of the ocean, you hear the sound of your own breathing in your helmet as you take in air and release bubbles, but you also see all of the apparently silent flow of life around you. Our weight is a lot lower than it is on dry land, so we actually bounce more than walk. We hope it is a good simulation of how we might move around on the moon. Walking around on the bottom of the ocean floor was a really neat experience for all of us! In addition, just like looking out the window of the Orbiter at the Earth, you never get tired of watching the activities of the ocean inhabitants.
Our mission is winding down. Tomorrow all of our activities are inside the habitat, with the main one being a vehicle survey of the habitat using the rover. We also have to start packing up our items and stage them for returning to the surface.
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