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NEEMO 12 Mission Journal May 16, 2007

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

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Mission Day 10 - Last Day of Diving Ops

The NEEMO 12 crew woke up on Mission Day 10 at 4 a.m. to prepare for their first and only dawn dive. After jumping out of our habitat bunks and grabbing a quick coffee and cocoa, it was off to prepare our SCUBA equipment and suits for a dark but beautiful dawn dive. Tim led the way out on our excursion lines into pitch black seas. We went along the excursion lines, with our flashlights off, so that we could enjoy the darkness. Our fins slowly churned the calm sea and generated beautiful bright blue bioluminescent specks. This left a beautiful light show for the next diver in line. There were several rays, slumbering queen angelfish, lobster, eels and a five foot nurse shark lying gently on the bottom near Aquarius. Again it felt like we were flying above the reef, no longer tied to the bottom and exploring every valley and corner of our coral surroundings. Returning from the vast darkness to our well lit habitat brought fond memories of our night hiking excursions and the warm feeling one gets upon finally seeing the light of our campfire. Heide finished the dive by doing slow somersaults and barrel rolls enjoying the near weightless buoyancy of the water.

Last night, we sent our report to the topside crew using audio and video files, recapping the day and asking several questions regarding equipment and schedules for today. In return, the topside crew sent their replies and recommendations this morning in additional files for our review. With these asynchronous daily planning conferences, we began to explore crew autonomy during future Martian missions that will lack real-time communication. Imagine having a conversation where one person talks and the other person answers hours later. It worked well, as we both carefully planned the format and how we would ask and answer questions.

After cleaning up from our dawn dive and receiving the morning message, it was time to get to work. We hit the wet porch running, preparing our diving hats for work and coordinating the execution of our center of gravity tests. Joe and James started the pre-dive checklist, line by line, connecting emergency gas supplies as well as our air and communication umbilical lines. After properly fitting all of our equipment, Heide and Jose stepped out for another set of races through our ocean obstacle course, wearing several combinations of weights, and doing lunar-like tasks of ambulation, jogging up and down inclines, loading rocks and climbing a ladder on the side of our habitat. Joe coordinated these tasks from inside, recording the different levels of difficulty experienced and the times to complete each task. This data continues to be useful even now as lunar exploration suits back at the Johnson Space Center are being designed and changed based on feedback from NEEMO aquanauts.

Tim and Joe had their chance in the early afternoon, carrying their heavy weights through the paces. Hopefully many of you reading this summary joined us on the Internet. Because they had a shorter task list, Tim and Joe were able to enjoy nearly an hour of observation diving around the habitat. Sort of the last hurrah since today marks the end of our research diving activities. The reef this afternoon seemed to come alive, with lobsters, angelfish and several formations of rays effortlessly flying past. In looking at these rays one can see how an aeronautical engineer could have been inspired in the design of the B-2 stealth bomber. James discovered an octopus on the starboard side of our home, the first that Tim had ever seen in here in the Keys.

Heide was very busy inside Aquarius performing educational outreach and even an in-person television interview! We all joined her at the galley table for two hours of non-stop audio interviews as well, with television stations and medical journals asking rapid fire questions for five or ten minutes each. We also hope you joined us as well as it was aired simultaneously on NASA Satellite TV.

After our busy day, we did have some time to relax in the evening as we took care of our evening "paperwork" on the computers. Tonight we had a special treat for dinner - fresh salad with grilled chicken, courtesy of Marte, a friend of our habitat technician Dom. It was potted down in the middle of the day and waiting in the refrigerator after we finished diving. It was a very welcomed treat. After dinner, Tim, Joe and Heide relaxed, recalling stories of the day.

Packing day is coming. Our dive wet suits, any unused computer equipment and completed research material and experiments have already being potted and transferred to the surface. We'll start preparing our atmosphere for the decompression by changing out our carbon dioxide scrubbers and ensuring the habitat is ready for our slow return to surface pressure. This is scheduled to start tomorrow afternoon. Two more days to go and we'll have a regular SCUBA dive initiating in our wet porch and swimming onto a waiting boat, literally splashing up!

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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