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NEEMO 12 Mission Journal May 15, 2007

Status Report From: NEEMO
Posted: Friday, May 18, 2007

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Mission Day 9 - The Days are Swimming By!

Ever since we've reached the midpoint of this mission the days seem to be flying by at a much quicker pace than normal! Perhaps it's because we are all coming to the realization that our underwater sea adventure will soon come to an end. In any event, we are all trying to savor each moment, for soon this will all be a memory relived only through our photos, videos, journals and personal recollections.

Last night a thunderstorm occurred right above us and the light from the lightning lit up the water around our habitat. The fish also seemed to be a little spooked and our best guess is that they on occasion not only saw the light from the lightning but also heard the thunder. Our ears also told us there were some heavy seas above us. When waves are significant (i.e., greater than 5 feet), our eardrums are sensitive enough to notice the differences in pressure created between the peaks and the troughs of the waves. It is similar to what your ears feel when driving up and then down a mountain with the exception that this feeling is synchronous with the up and down motion of each wave! In other words, we're feeling these sensations every 5-6 seconds. In spite of these rough seas, we are safe, of course, because the habitat and all its support structures are firmly attached to the sea bed floor with additional mooring lines to our buoy.

This morning, our commander, Heide, had an exciting extravehicular activity (EVA) in her timeline. She went outside and was joined by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Director of Oceans, Tim Keeney, and in virtual form over the Internet, by the Under Secretary of NOAA, Vice Admiral Conrad Lautenbacher, for the dedication of a geodesic marker that commemorates the 20th anniversary of the Aquarius habitat. Mr. Keeney came down in SCUBA gear and Heide went out in the yellow diving helmet for the event. One of only two such markers in the world that are under the sea, it indicates not only the latitude and longitude but also the depth of Aquarius. This also signifies the important partnership between NOAA, the National Underwater Research Center (NURC) and NASA which all have a vested interest in the exploration of extreme environments.

Later in the morning, Heide and Jose prepared for another EVA in which they donned a rig loaded with assorted weights. Topside divers configured their simulated lunar suit rigs in four different weight configurations. Heide and Jose traversed through a carefully designed obstacle course to evaluate walking, skipping, running, going up and down a 20-degree incline, climbing a ladder, and manipulating samples representing moon rocks. Tim did an awesome job inside the habitat timing and directing Heide and Jose through their individual runs. These experiments will help designers come up with an optimal next generation lunar space suit. We can get valuable design information from these NEEMO experiments.

Throughout the day the crew enjoyed doing several educational outreach broadcasts with schools literally coast to coast. The students asked question after question: how we prepared, were we ever afraid, how we talk in the water with the webcams, how we eat and sleep, if we get along and if we ever argue. Those are exactly the questions we will need to ask as we assemble and train crews for our return to the moon. It becomes especially important since the plan will be to establish a semi-permanent presence outpost. In preparation for these events and some VIP visitors, we made sure the habitat looked its best. Joe even pitched in and did the dishes.

Another educational outreach with schools was done with all four aquanauts shortly after Jose and Heide returned from their EVA. This being a day of educational outreach, still another outreach was done by Jose with the assistance of hab technician Dominic Landucci.

In the afternoon, it was Tim and Joe's turn for an EVA and to traverse through the obstacle course. Their run was very similar to Heide's and Jose's morning run. Heide provided the IVA support while Jose worked on an educational outreach activity and other administrative tasks. Based on our timed results, there is no doubt that the speedster in this group is our own Dr. Joe Schmid.

Tomorrow morning we have our early morning dive scheduled for 5:30 a.m., so we will all be going to bed early tonight. We hope to tell you all about the early morning dive and the rest of tomorrow's activities.

For crew journals, live webcam views, images and aquanaut profiles, visit:
http://www.uncw.edu/aquarius/index.html
http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/NEEMO/index.html

For streaming video from Aquarius, visit:
http://www.uncw.edu/aquarius/thumb_cam.htm

For NASA's Digital Learning Network, visit:
http://nasadln.nmsu.edu/dln/

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