Posted: Thursday, May 10, 2007
Mission Day 1: Moving Day
A huge thunderstorm greeted us the night prior to splashdown. After some early morning drizzle, the Aquanaut crew was ready for splashdown. Pleasant temperatures and a gray sky were joined by 4 to 6 foot seas. It was second nature climbing into our oxygen tanks and full face masks this morning for our splashdown to Aquarius. It was a bit sportier waiting on the surface until everyone was suited up, in the water and ready to start our "12 day dive." We descended down on the buoy line to the habitat and were greeted by the resident schools of fish around the habitat. Bill Todd, NEEMO Project Manager, herded us to the bow of the habitat for our first mission objective, a crew photo. Our "hab techs," Dom and James, already on board, smiled out of the bow view port while the rest of us formed around the port for a couple of great crew shots.
We still had some real estate around the habitat to see. After topping off our tanks at the Aquarius and activating our in-water communication system, Ross led us off for the far reaches of the area. The Kamper Station is a safe haven complete with a refill tank of air and communication back to the Aquarius. Visibility was not the greatest today due to the sea state. We saw new excursion lines that had been installed and some coral patches. After this last orientation dive, our trainer Ross left us for the last time and we were ready to start the mission. In the style of our lunar excursion, we collected a "contingency" piece of dead coral for later remote analysis and manipulation by our topside crew.
After returning to the habitat, we had more briefings to become familiar with our new home. There are "bail-out bottles" with emergency air to use in case we need to evacuate to the gazebo, one of our safe havens. The habitat has monitoring devices for oxygen, carbon dioxide, smoke and carbon monoxide. There are also emergency doors in the floor of the bunkroom through which we can exit if there were a fire or other obstruction in the wet porch. Finally, we have 24 hour communications with the topside monitoring crews, to whom we can also ask clarifying questions for our activities schedule. James went over the basics of how to shower and keep dry here in the habitat.
Finishing a great lunch of freeze-dried camping food and fresh fruit, half of us prepared for diving with those fantastic diving helmets. Heide and Jose were delayed in departing due to some early communication configuration issues. But, these were eventually worked out (and here is Jose on his first "Aquarius Dive" in the diving helmet). Heide and Jose also mapped out a possible area to construct our communications tower structure during future diving excursions. Our topside crew was able to virtually join us through our helmet cameras for these excursions. We hope you out on the Internet were also able to join in via the Aquarius website (www.uncw.edu\aquarius) .
In addition to the diving today, we also started on our science experiments to see how the body reacts in the stressful environment during an event packed mission. One of the experiments tests our motor skills and reaction times at various times during the day. Heide was doing one of these tests after her dive.
Space is a premium here in the habitat. There was lots of unpacking of food and equipment today. Joe and Tim were busy unpacking all of the gear that was temporarily staged in the bunkroom. Computers, power supplies, communications equipment, cameras, video cameras, clothing, and everything else we will need for our mission was "potted down" in watertight containers. The many support divers, like Coop and Pensacola intern Justine Brown, are doing the lion's share of the work, along with all our science and topside support personnel to make NEEMO 12 a successful mission.
The NEEMO 12 crew successfully "splashed down" at 10:20 a.m. Monday to start their 12-day mission aboard Aquarius.
The day was very busy as they tackled 2 orientation dives, safety briefings on their new home, and getting all of their gear unpacked, set up, and stowed. Previous crews have compared the pace of the day to their first hours on space missions. These activities went smoothly – even getting ahead on the timeline and objectives at times – which was a testimony to the preparation the crew and topside team put into this mission.
One of the serious challenges facing NASA as we look at design requirements for a future lunar base is answering the question of how much habitable volume will be required. Aquarius makes a great analog for helping answer this question.
One of the "extra-vehicular activities", or EVAs, was a general survey and orientation of the landscape of their new home. From the attached map you can see lines which represent ropes suspended across the landscape to provide sure, direct navigation back home to Aquarius in case of an emergency, as well as to provide obvious boundaries to their working area in the Carpenter Basin (named in honor of the nation's first aquastronaut, Scott Carpenter) where Aquarius is situated. The shaded areas are the 3 primary work sectors for this mission.
Image above: Map of NEEMO 12 work sectors in Carpenter Basin area near Aquarius. Image credit: NASA
Each NEEMO mission incorporates some Educational Outreach events in conjunction of NASA's Digital Learning Network, and NEEMO 12 is no exception. Below you'll see Jose working with the plant germination experiment. A link to the Digital Learning Network is below, where you'll find a list of webcast events you could watch if interested, and even a link to submit your own questions!
Thanks for following along.
NEEMO 12 Topside Team
For crew journals, live webcam views, images and aquanaut profiles, visit:
For streaming video from Aquarius, visit:
For NASA's Digital Learning Network, visit:
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