Posted: Sunday, September 24, 2006
Image: NEEMO 11 crew members and habitat technicians take a moment to pose for a group photo inside their undersea habitat for the NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) project. Image credit: NASA
Today we began the journey back to the surface and to dry land. Our day began like all the others, we had a DPC early this morning so that we could be prepared for the day's events. The mission control team talked with us by telecon and then headed out to the habitat to support our tasks.
Our first activity was to drive the remotely operated vehicle (our robot) around the outside of the habitat so that we could search for anything out of the ordinary. We searched for unexplained bubbles that would indicate a leak in the habitat and took a close look at each of the portals to make sure that they were all in good shape. Since the habitat is in really good shape and we didn't expect to find anything, the mission control team had hidden something outside for us to find. That was mission control room team's test to make sure that we had performed a very detailed search. The third operator this morning found the item and we were very glad to have successfully performed the inspection! Using the camera on the robot, we took a picture and e-mailed it to the control room team.
After the inspection we had several educational events. During these events we link up live with different groups of school students and describe our activities. Normally, we also have time for a question and answer session. Today the first event was with one of our crew member's hometown and with students from his high school. This was really neat, and the Pattonville High School students who were watching from the St. Louis Science Center were really great to talk to!
Our next event was very exciting for us. It was a live video link-up with the crews currently on the International Space Station. Since we are currently transitioning to a new space station crew, there are two teams of astronauts onboard the space station. Two of the astronauts in space right now have previously lived in the Aquarius habitat during other NEEMO missions.
After completing these events, we began to send equipment to the surface that we had finished using. We also sent up most of our personal items, since tomorrow morning we will SCUBA to the surface and end our mission. A lot of it was dirty laundry that we were happy to send away!
After we completed sending up the items that we don't plan to use anymore, we began the slow ascent to the surface. The process to go to the surface involves closing the hatches of the habitat and then pumping the pressure inside down to the same level as the pressure at the ocean surface. The habitat is very slowly pumped down over a period of 16 hours. It also includes an extended period of breathing 100% oxygen to help rid our bodies of the nitrogen that has been absorbed into our blood. None of us want to get decompression sickness, so we really want to get this process right! The team of habitat technicians that we have is really top notch and has everything going perfectly. Since the hatches are closed and we can't perform any more dives, we had a relaxing evening talking, eating pizza, and watching movies.
Well, that about covers our final full day here at the Aquarius habitat. We have all really become accustomed to living on the ocean floor with all our new ocean friends. We have thoroughly enjoyed our time here and all hope to have an opportunity to come back!
// end //