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NEEMO 10 Mission Journal

JSC2006-E-30794 - NEEMO 10 crew
Image above: NEEMO 10 crew members take a moment to pose for a photo. Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut/aquanaut Koichi Wakata (right) leads the crew. NASA astronauts Drew Feustel (left) and Karen Nyberg; and Karen Kohanowich, deputy director of NOAA's Undersea Research Program, Silver Spring, Md., round out the crew. Image credit: NASA

Saturday, July 22, 2006
Mission Day 1
Crew Journal

NEEMO 10 is splashed down and under way! Saturday dawned sunny and calm after a rainy off-day, and we set off amidst fond farewells from topside support and camera crew. Our Japanese visitors wished us 'fair winds' with gifts of authentic Japanese antique fans, which came in handy in the hot, still canal air. The seas around the life support buoy were up to their old tricks though, and tossed us off into a slight current.

Our first team coordination test began before we reached the bottom - our team picture! We executed three highly choreographed maneuvers (thanks, Maestro Bill!) as Bill and Marc snapped away to get a poster-quality shot. After they were satisfied, we ducked into the wet porch and officially began our week as aquanauts.

The first order of business for all Aquarius aquanauts is a full safety and familiarization tour. We learned the habitat's important valves, switches (red shunt trip breaker) and procedures. One of the most important things that's not immediately obvious is the humidity. Once you get wet, it's impossible to dry off, so we use chamois squeegee towels instead of terry cloth, and make sure we're dried off before we leave the wet porch and enter our living spaces. We then swallowed a quick lunch and got ready for an afternoon of familiarization dives and practice with the remotely operated vehicle (ROV).

A word about food - the main meals are dehydrated camping food, easy to make with hot water and share if you can't eat a whole two-person serving. The bags of food are supplemented with tortillas, cheese, and chocolate; not necessarily in that order!

Karen Nyberg (i.e., "Bergy Bit") and Karen Kohanowich (i.e., "K2") were the first divers out for the familiarization dive. This mission is using new lightweight umbilicals which float rather than drag on the bottom, so a primary objective of the dive was to see how well the divers could manage walking around the coral areas with the umbilicals. Another tactic we're using on this mission to assist with umbilical management is what's called 'fairleading,' which means the umbilicals are led out of the habitat to a distant anchor - in this case a spare gazebo about 150 feet away- and then looped back to the Aquarius. Since the umbilicals are 400 feet long, we have enough umbilical to go back to the spare gazebo - called the 'Koblick station' and about 250 feet beyond.

The first team of Karens headed to the Koblick station and beyond to the Kamper station, a deeper gazebo about 150 feet further that is 90 feet deep. The umbilicals reached about 70-80 feet further than the Kamper station. During the first umbilical test Thursday, the topside team had realized that the lines were actually too light, and floated too near the surface of the water. They fixed this by attaching small lead strips along the umbilical at intervals. Today, after a bit more maneuvering, the divers realized that one of the umbilicals was a bit heavy, so they adjusted the weights. The floating umbilicals are definitely more maneuverable and reef-friendly than the older, heavier versions.

The conditions were calm and visibility was good for Karen and K2's dive, but Koichi and Drew weren't so lucky. By the time they suited up and got in the water a half hour after K's dives, the current picked up to about a knot, which can be quite a challenge with 400 feet of umbilical. In addition, Koichi’s regulator began to free-flow, likely because of a bit of sand and debris. Nevertheless, he returned safely after a 45-minute dive, instead of the planned 90-minute dive.

While the divers were out, the remaining two crewmembers practiced with the ROV. A new addition to the "Scuttle" is a camera mounted on a tall pole, about 3 feet above the ROV. The idea was to see if the view helped the crewmember drive the vehicle. The team didn't find the higher view that much more helpful, and unfortunately the ROV suffered a number of voltage faults that shortened the practice time. There's more familiarization time scheduled tomorrow to keep working out the bugs!

The evenings are marvelous - when the outer light fades and the habitat lights come on, it invites all the fish to come take a look. A small turtle checked the team out as they finished off their dehydrated rice and tortilla dinner, and Lucy the Grouper paid a number of curiosity visits. In all a very successful first day and a promising launch to the week!

Saturday, July 22, 2006
Mission Day 1
Topside Report


An intense training week for the 10th NEEMO mission has concluded successfully with our crewmembers graduating from "Aquanaut Candidate" status to being officially signed off to start the mission today, Saturday July 22. They successfully “splashed down” at 10:21 a.m. to start their seven-day mission aboard Aquarius, the only operational undersea research habitat in the world. The Mission Commander is Koichi Wakata, a veteran JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut, accompanied by NASA astronaut crewmates Karen Nyberg and Drew Feustel. Karen Kohanowich, Deputy Director of NOAA’s (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Undersea Research Program joins them. Mark Hulsbeck and Dominic Landucci, both professional aquanauts from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, round out the crew and will operate the Aquarius and oversee safety during the mission.

NEEMO 10 is sponsored by the Constellation Program at NASA. The Constellation Program is responsible for taking NASA back to the moon and on to Mars. The primary objectives support investigating facets of operations critical to returning to the lunar surface, with some investigation of working on Mars as well. We will use undersea extravehicular activities imitating moonwalks to test concepts for mobility, using weighted backpacks to simulate lunar and Martian gravity. Techniques for communication, navigation and using remote-controlled robots on the moon's surface also will be tested. The NEEMO Project Lead is Bill Todd, with a supporting cast of: Mission Director Marc Reagan, Monika Schultz, Dan Sedej, Kristen Painting, Alex Moore, Kimi Parker and Kristen Todd from Johnson Space Center.

The crew had a very busy day today, which included two orientation dives, safety briefings on their new home, driving the remotely operated vehicle 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 – a testimony to the preparation the crew and support team put into this mission.

      - NEEMO 10 Topside Team

 NEEMO 10 Mission Journal Number 7
"Today the NEEMO 10 mission ended successfully with 'splashup' at about 9:48 a.m. EDT."
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 NEEMO 10 Mission Journal Number 6
"A 'tag-up' with the International Space Station astronauts was the highlight of the day. "
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 NEEMO 10 Mission Journal Number 5
"Last night was a time for new life on the reef, as clouds of plankton, brine shrimp and fish eggs rained down in front of the viewports all evening."
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 NEEMO 10 Mission Journal Number 4
"The aquanauts experienced a heavy workload during the exercise, feeling like a cross between Godzilla and a professional linebacker."
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 NEEMO 10 Mission Journal Number 3
"Drew and K2 took advantage of some timelined hookah dive time to find out which fish visit the Aquarius at night."
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 NEEMO 10 Mission Journal Number 2
"Today’s simulated exploration activities were targeted for a lunar gravity environment."
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 NEEMO 10 Training Journal
"It’s about the size of a big motor home, and the top grates look like a landing deck above the Yellow Submarine."
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