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NEEMO 10 Mission Journal

Drew Feustel with logbook
Image above: NASA astronaut/aquanaut Drew Feustel uses a communication system while making entries in a logbook. Image credit: NASA

Thursday, July 27, 2006
Mission Day 6
Crew Journal

The crew awakened slowly for their last day underwater. We pulled out the timeline and joked about reposting Mission Day 1 and starting all over again. Since the aquanauts have to be back in the habitat at least six hours before decompression, no diving was scheduled for the day. Instead, the team stayed busy packing up and conducting an exterior survey of the habitat with the remotely-operated vehicle (ROV).

Koichi worked late the night before reconfiguring the ROV from its ground rolling/sampling/collecting mode to a more streamlined flying mode (he removed the wheels, saddlebag and camera post). Each of the team members took a turn flying around the habitat. The ROV has a very useful “automatic hover” mode that made the operation easier; no one became tangled in umbilicals or got too close to the habitat. At the end of the time, the ROV watched the surface support divers try new techniques to pick up the weights and underwater equipment that remained at the worksite.

A ”tag-up” with the International Space Station astronauts was the highlight of the day. The team spoke with Jeff Williams, Pavel Vinogradov and Thomas Reiter as they orbited over Central America. Jeff had been a member of NEEMO 3 and had been scuba-trained by Mark Hulsbeck, so the crew had a number of NEEMO stories to share. Jeff reemphasized how similar the NEEMO mission was to his space experience, especially in matters of timeline, procedures and just getting along with folks in a confined space. The discussion will be broadcast on NASA TV and will be available on the NASA website.

NEEMO 10 crew Image to right: The NEEMO 10 crew members don oxygen masks. Image credit: NASA

After a quick visit and brief from the doc, our decompression hab tech Roger Garcia came down and got us all ready for our first hour of decompression on oxygen. The procedure entails everyone staying in their bunks breathing oxygen from a mask for three 20-minute periods. After five days in the wet suit helmets, the oxygen masks weren't too bad, although there is a bit of resistance on the exhale. Dominic set up the “Pirates of the Caribbean” video to keep us entertained, so the hour went by very quickly.

Afterward, we had our first quiet evening and were able to catch up on journals, photos, and e-mail, plan tomorrow's splash-up party, come up with new mixtures of dehydrated food for dinner and share sea stories. The best sea stories are those we made this week though, and we can't wait to get out and tell them!

Thursday, July 27, 2006
Mission Day 6
Topside Report

Today we accomplished an objective we called a "vehicle inspection." On the International Space Station and space shuttle we sometimes need to look at something externally to understand a problem we have or damage that has occurred. This is how the protective tiles on the shuttle are inspected after launch now. The primary method for doing this is to use one of the Canadian-built robotic arms and maneuver it into position so that its video cameras can show the specialists on the ground what is going on. This is a primary method (as opposed to a spacewalk) for two reasons: risk to the crew, and "work efficiency" of a spacewalk (or "EVA" as we call them).

We envision that periodic inspections of a lunar habitat will be required just as they are on our current space vehicles, and that a robotic system will have a prominent role once again (because spacewalks carry some additional risk by their very nature). For instance, we may notice that there's a small leak because the pressure keeps slowly falling inside the habitat. A big enough leak into the vacuum of space might be visible from the outside -- kind of like seeing your breath on a cold winter's day. In our scenario, to play the role of a robotic arm we used our trusty little ROV again. The crew flew it all around the exterior of Aquarius, taking care not to hit Aquarius, but also getting close enough to see little details in the video camera. As for the vehicle inspection, the crew was able to successfully and confidently fly it all around their habitat, and get high resolution imagery while doing so.

NEEMO 10 crew member with remotely operated vehicle
Image above: NEEMO 10 crew member participates in a session of extravehicular activity. A remotely-operated vehicle, called Scuttle, is in the foreground. Image credit: NASA

The crew was also able to conduct a ship-to-ship video linkup with the International Space Station today. Former NEEMO 3 crew commander Jeff Williams is currently on the station as a member of the Expedition 13 crew, along with Pavel Vinogradov and Thomas Reiter. For his NEEMO mission, Jeff (like our NEEMO 10 crew) was trained by our NEEMO 10 aquanaut Mark Hulsbeck. The crew reported this opportunity to swap stories of sea and space was the highlight of their day.

However, the clock is running out, and today the crew will began the 16+ hour process called "decompression" in order to allow them to safely "splashup" tomorrow. This is what we call "deco day.” As you now know, they have spent the last six days at a depth of 47 feet. At that depth, their bodies have taken on excess amounts of nitrogen which has been absorbed in their body tissues and must be removed.

Decompression is a very safe procedure which is accomplished in several steps: 1) The crew breathes pure oxygen for three short intervals to help decrease or "washout" the nitrogen in their blood; 2) the main living quarters are "locked out" from the "wet porch" area and the internal habitat pressure is slowly brought to the surface pressure by exhausting the internal air to the surface (14 hours); and finally 3) the habitat is "blown down" to the 47-foot level again in just a few minutes. Then the hatch is opened and the crew swims slowly to the surface under the watchful eye of escorting safety divers. They should be on the surface at about 9:42 am on Friday, where we will be waiting on the boat to take them home under the expert supervision of NURC Associate Director Otto Rutten.

      - NEEMO 10 Topside Team

For crew journals, live webcam views, images and aquanaut profiles, visit:

 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 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."
+ Read More
 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."
+ Read More
 NEEMO 10 Mission Journal Number 2
"Today’s simulated exploration activities were targeted for a lunar gravity environment."
+ Read More
 NEEMO 10 Mission Journal Number 1
"NEEMO 10 is splashed down and under way!"
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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."
+ Read More
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