Posted: Sunday, September 24, 2006
Solid, solid sleep!! Last night we all slept deeply. Perhaps it was the 17-hour long process of decompression, or perhaps it was just the release of a fast-paced, very productive, focused mission being nearly over. Regardless, we slept like rock fish!
During the night, we had an additional HabTech onboard Aquarius with us, James, to help monitor the atmosphere and make sure we weren't "ascending" too fast in our internal pressure and that our oxygen partial pressure was correct. This huge NEEMO effort is supported by many folks whose hard work enables us to do the mission, and this is just one example of this grand team effort.
As a crew, we awoke about 6 am or so, not only excited about returning to land, but also with some mixed feelings. The two huge groupers came by both the bunk room portal as well as the galley portal, almost as if they knew we were departing, simply to say good bye. Swarms of yellowtail fish and several of the sergeants major fish also danced at our windows – many of them recognizable from some distinguishing characteristics. And of course, our favorite and curious barracuda was also dropping by. It felt very much like a family's send off, a farewell.
While we were waving to our undersea friends, we also spent the time today to clean our home for the next set of visitors. From top to bottom, we wiped down all the surfaces, checked in all the crevices, and vacuumed the carpets. We wanted to be sure that Aquarius was in at least as good of shape as we found her, if not better.
Final packing also occurred, as we awaited our vessel to reach the surface pressure of one atmosphere. Once there, we potted up everything that needed to be kept at 1 atm, staged all the necessary items near the wet porch doorway, and readied ourselves for the quick "descent" back to 2.5 atm. Ten minutes later, we were back down at pressure and opened the lock to the wet porch. Dressed in fins and masks, and with our individual pony bottles, we ascended the guide line to the surface and our boat.
It was only a week and we made hundreds of friends, gained a new sense of wonder by being able to observe nature right out of our windows and faceplates. We've assisted in developing principles for exploring beyond our home planet, aided in the design of future spacesuits, and tested the idea of accomplishing a construction project in a remote environment. The six of us bonded as a team and will cherish the photographs from this mission, reminding us of the special time we spent down here under the sea. In addition, we are very grateful that we could share this NEEMO mission together, and with you.
Come join us on yet another NEEMO mission, or better yet…come join us as we take what we've learned here and begin exploring the Moon, Mars, and beyond.
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