Posted: Sunday, August 12, 2007
August 6, 2007
We packed up the remainder of our belongings this morning, suited up, and made the 40-minute boat ride to start our mission. Shortly after our arrival at Conch Reef, we made our way down the descent line to our new home - Aquarius. Some of our belongings were waiting for us when we arrived. The remainder that we packed up earlier arrived at Aquarius not long after our arrival. All of our belongings were "potted down" to us. In other words, they were delivered by divers in heavy-duty, waterproof containers. We spent the remainder of the morning moving into our bunks, setting up our equipment, and spending a lot of time looking out the window at our new neighbors on the reef. One of the interesting things we noticed upon unpacking was how much smaller most of our bags were. Anything that could be compressed by the 50 feet of water sitting on top of us was compressed!
After a quick lunch of dehydrated stew, we began getting ready for our first major activity. We made our way to the wet-porch, suited up, then made our first excursion, or as we call it in the space business extra-vehicular activity (EVA for short), into our new environment. Wearing our helmets, we used our buoyancy to offset our weight, allowing us to walk on the seafloor much like the Apollo astronauts walked on the moon in one-sixth gravity.
In fact, most folks at NASA agree that this is a close as one can get to walking on the moon without actually building a rocket and flying there. We are planning on doing both, but for the time being, we are going to enjoy our time exploring the reefs of Carpenter Basin, 10 miles south of Key Largo.
One of the striking things about Aquarius is how much it has become an actual living and breathing part of the reef. It is heavily covered with corals, sponges and all manner of encrusting organisms which in turn prey upon and feed the wide variety of fishes that make Aquarius home. When you approach Aquarius from the outside, you quickly recognize that you are looking at a complete ecosystem. When you are inside of Aquarius looking out one of the many portals, you realize you are now part of that reef ecosystem.
As we wrap up our day and prepare for tomorrow - dinner comes and goes, the various experiments get completed, and tomorrow's tasks are reviewed - all under the watchful eye of the magnificent Goliath Groupers who watch our every move through the window. There are many similarities between our lives on Aquarius and those of our friends on Expedition 15 on the International Space Station, but while they spend their free time looking down at Earth below, we spend ours looking out at Earth around us.
We're looking forward to a great mission. We'll keep you informed as it unfolds!
- NEEMO 13 Topside Team
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