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FEATURE
NEEMO 11 Pre-Mission Journal

NEEMO 11 crew members participate in a training session
Image above: The NEEMO 11 crew members participate in a training session. From the left are trainer Roger Garcia; astronaut/aquanauts Timothy J. Creamer and Sandra H. Magnus; trainer Larry Ward; and astronaut/aquanauts Timothy L. Kopra, and Robert L. Behnken. Image credit: NASA

We arrived in Florida on Sunday and drove down to the Key Largo condos headquarters of the NURC team. The NASA team settled in and we relaxed for the evening, knowing that we were about to start a really busy week. On Monday, bright and early, we met with the NURC team, Roger and Larry, our two NURC crew members, and discussed the training plan for the week. It was a full plan as there was a lot to learn so we got right to work. Roger, who has a lot of diving experience, briefed us on the diving helmet. This is the helmet that we will be using for our excursions out of Aquarius. Air is supplied to the helmet through the 400-foot umbilical, along with communication capability. We also wear an emergency gas bottle on our back, connected to the helmet. Roger showed us how to prep the helmet, put it on and take it off each other, and perform the post dive checks. It was important to really understand all of the steps since we want to be safe! We also learned about the different emergency procedures that we would have to do in case something went wrong. We really benefited from Roger’s knowledge. We all got comfortable with the system and even got a chance to do a dry run. Tim volunteered to be the guinea pig on the boat and we dressed him out in the helmet even though it was really hot!

On Tuesday we got to try out the helmets and went diving off shore in about 25 foot of water near a beautiful coral reef. It was a neat experience to walk on the floor of the ocean and look at the fish. The helmets work great and we really appreciated the time to get familiar with them. During this time we also practiced all of the emergency drills that we needed to become familiar with, in addition to demonstrating some emergency procedures on SCUBA. We even got to spend a little time swimming along the reef!

Wednesday we went out to the habitat and SCUBA dove down in pairs to the wet porch of Aquarius to put on the helmet and do a familiarization dive in the surrounding area around the habitat. The number of fish just swimming around the structure was amazing and included very large goliath grouper! The fish were used to having divers among them and were not scared away by us walking nearby or passing them by. The habitat sits at about 40-45 feet and the bottom is at about 60 feet with some of the surrounding area getting as deep as 95 feet. We are on a 400-foot umbilical and that limits the amount of travel that we can do around the habitat, but that is enough! There are a lot of coral patches in the sand bar around the structure and also some pretty dense reefs to the north and south. It was a brief dive, but it gave us the opportunity to become acquainted with the environs of our soon to be home.

Thursday was devoted to learning about the inside of the habitat, the emergency procedures and the layout. On the NURC website you can take a virtual tour of Aquarius, and Otter, who has a lot of experience with the habitat, along with some great stories gave us the tour. The tour is great and we recommend it if you want to see where we will be living.

In the evenings and after we finished the NURC training we still had a lot to do back at the condo, going over our procedures, making sure we had all of the information we needed to execute the mission, looking at hardware and organizing our notes. It really was a very busy week but we are ready and looking forward to our SPLASHDOWN tomorrow!!

  ISSUE ARCHIVES 
 
 NEEMO 11 Mission Journal Number 7
"The six of us bonded as a team and will cherish the photographs from this mission, reminding us of the special time we spent down here under the sea."
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 NEEMO 11 Mission Journal Number 6
"Today we began the journey back to the surface and to dry land."
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 NEEMO 11 Mission Journal Number 5
"Just like the feeling of floating in space, it is hard to describe what it feels like to walk around on the bottom of the ocean."
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 NEEMO 11 Mission Journal Number 4
"The dive was very successful and we were happy with how much we were able to do and the topside team got a lot of good information about construction in extreme environments."
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 NEEMO 11 Mission Journal Number 3
"During the second dive of the day, the team finished construction of the LunaSea base and located a suitable location for tomorrow's final construction task."
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 NEEMO 11 Mission Journal Number 2
"It was really interesting to see how just the weight distribution for this simulated space suit could dramatically change how difficult or easy it was to do different activities."
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 NEEMO 11 Mission Journal Number 1
"We dove off the boat and descended through the clear blue water to the habitat."
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