Status Report

NASA NEEMO 9 CDR Dave Williams Training Week Journal Tuesday, March 28, 2006

By SpaceRef Editor
April 8, 2006
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NASA NEEMO 9 CDR Dave Williams Training Week Journal Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Ah – here it is 6:45 a.m. again and time to get up for another training day! The pace is beginning to pick-up with more diving tasks being added every day. We have an hour or so in the morning to get caught up on e-mail, prepare breakfast, eat, wash dishes, shower, and review the day’s training activities. Sounds like a lot but it is pretty similar to mornings at home getting the kids ready for school – except we don’t have to worry about our homework! This morning we had two safety briefings on using the habitat and maintaining safety while diving outside the habitat. Due to the surrounding water pressure living at the habitat results in increased nitrogen gas becoming absorbed into our body. This is very similar to what happens when SCUBA diving and is the reason that divers have to swim slowly to the surface, often taking special safety stops, to prevent the dissolved nitrogen coming out of solution as bubbles! Needless to say, tiny bubbles in your body are not good things! Living underwater, in “saturation” means our bodies are fully saturated with nitrogen gas and going to the surface is not an option.

We reviewed techniques to find a lost diver, although it is really important not to get lost. When we leave the habitat we follow excursion lines that are suspended above the bottom heading in different directions from the habitat. Instead of swimming beside the lines, we use our arms to pull us along the lines. If we want to go to a different part of the reef, we attach a separate line to the excursion line to enable us to always find our way home no matter where we are on the reef. Our instructor, nicknamed Otter, took us outside to practice with the lines so we won’t tie ourselves up in knots on the bottom during the mission. We also practiced compass navigation walking down the street with towels over our heads, to prevent us looking where we were going, as we navigated from one point to another. It certainly was an attention getter as people drove by the NURC facility and saw us wandering, seemingly aimlessly, with towels over our heads. After a quick 10-minute lunch we hopped on the boat to head out for our training dive to practice all of our new skills. The waves were 4-6 feet making it much more of a challenge to get suited as the boat heaved around in the waves.

It was quite a relief to get into the water and be able to float freely on the surface waiting for the team to get into the water. Of course this break was short lived as we descended swimming into a 1+ knot current. My regular kick did not produce much forward movement against the current and it reminded me of flying a Cessna 150 into a 70-knot wind – you can actually see yourself going backwards over the ground!! After making it to the bottom, we practiced our new navigation and cave reel skills. Swimming with the lines in the current was a whole new opportunity for personal growth and development! After the line drills, we practiced our shut down drills that we had learned the day before – this time without our mask. After an hour dive we were back up on the boat, rocking in the waves getting our suits off to head back to dock. The day finished off with a dive debrief, a bench review of all of our experiment hardware that will be used during the mission and working on our “potting lists” of all of the clothes we will take with us underwater. We are all looking forward to tomorrow and more diving as we get ready for the longest saturation mission undertaken on Aquarius!!

SpaceRef staff editor.