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NEEMO 9 Mission Journal

Mission Day 12
Friday, April 14, 2006

JSC2006-E-14928 - An astronaut/aquanaut participates in a morning dive. Image above: An astronaut/aquanaut worked on a structure called “Waterlab”. This is to simulate a tower that might have to be built on the moon or Mars someday. Credit: NASA

Dave Williams:

Today was a diving day! Breakfast and the daily planning conference went by quickly and Nicole and I got suited for a dive to continue building Waterlab.

The dives are building in complexity as the mission continues. Today’s dive will have Nicole and me working in conjunction with the ROV controlled by the EXPOC. Bill, Karl and Marc from our topside team will dive to photograph the ROV helping with Waterlab tasks. One of the exploration objectives for the dive is to evaluate how robots and humans can work together to perform complex tasks – to identify which task is better suited for robotic operations and which is better for humans. We started by donning our simulated lunar spacesuit life support systems and worked quickly attaching additional structures to Waterlab. The EXPOC used the manipulator on the ROV to pick up a bundle of structural members and bring them to me with additional tools to help me perform the construction task. The objectives for the dive included flying the ROV toward me and hovering three feet off the bottom for the manipulator release and hand-off as well as driving the ROV along the sea floor for the hand-off.

In both cases, our ROV operator at the EXPOC did an excellent job of following my commands, and flying and driving the ROV. We shot a lot of photographs and had a brief chance to talk with our families watching our dive from the EXPOC. The Southern stingray swam by as we finished our tasks and took up its usual spot by the tank farm – a group of compressed air cylinders that provide air to the habitat. Tim and Ron had hot chocolate waiting for us and we quickly doffed our wetsuits to warm up and have lunch.

After lunch we had a briefing with the EXPOC to review the dive objectives for our second dive of the day. Tim and Ron were scheduled to use the dive helmet to perform a grid survey of the area adjacent to the habitat with the navigational equipment, this time walking instead of swimming. We attached a diver tracking device to Tim’s tank that enabled us to track their range and bearing from the habitat. After completing their “surface” and in-water checks they climbed down to the sea floor and stretched out the umbilicals that provide them air to breathe and communication back to the habitat. The tracking system provided a very accurate depiction of their path as they walked and confirmed the grid search mode was working as planned. The diver tracking was also sent back to Houston giving controllers the capability of following the activities of the divers and guiding them back to the habitat if necessary. Developing a similar capability for lunar missions would be of tremendous benefit during lunar spacewalks. We captured the computer data from the “sea walk” and sent it topside for comparison with the navigational data from our navigational equipment.

Nicole spoke to students throughout North America and with Erika from the Distance Learning Center at the Johnson Space Center in two back-to-back educational outreach activities. I took a quick break from talking to Tim, Ron and the EXPOC to say “Hi” to students from Richmond Hill and throughout Canada. It is exciting to think that one of those students may very well become one of the next generation of space or ocean explorers continuing the quest to learn about these two final frontiers!

The dive finished at five o’clock in time for our daily planning conference and a medical conference with our diving medical officer in Florida and our flight surgeon in Houston. Tonight we are using our time to catch up on crew photographs and our journals. Tomorrow will be a busy day for us with CMAS experiments and our night dive. We are all looking forward to a break on Sunday and a chance to talk with our families once again.

Ron Garan:

Today started out with Dave and Nicole continuing the construction of WaterLab with me working as their IV. The IV is the crewmember who choreographs the extravehicular activity (EVA). It was an exciting time backing up Dave and Nicole on their construction, while simultaneously controlling the dive, setting up the ROV to be controlled from Houston, monitoring ROV operation, while Ross and Jim worked through communication problems. Dave and Nicole did a great job on the construction and we incorporated the ROV into the construction tasks. Mission Control used the ROV to provide appropriate camera views and retrieve and hand-off tools and construction parts. It was a very successful excursion. Dave and Nicole's families in Houston were able to go to Mission Control and view the dive. At one point Nicole and Chris' 3-year-old son (who is also Carmel and my godson) came on the loops and said, "Mommy, do you see any sharks down there - OVER." I thought the "over" part was especially cute.

Later in the day Tim and I went out and conducted an evaluation of the navigation system. With our dive helmets on, Tim and I evaluated the effectiveness of using the navigation system to accomplish a detailed grid search. The system worked well. While I was walking on the bottom and concentrating on the navigation system, Tim informed me that there was a rather large Atlantic stingray buried in the sand about three steps ahead. I could tell by the look in the two eyes that were popping out of the sand the ray was thinking, "Go ahead, take another step and make my day."

One of the big lessons that we learned was that real time electronic tracking (via the diver tracking system) significantly increased the effectiveness of a grid search and ensured that we covered the intended search area. Before we left Houston I initiated the development of a surface exploration lessons learned database. We have been able to enter the key points that we have learned directly into the database during this mission. It is very important to be able to capture and document what we're learning so the architects of our nation's Vision for Space Exploration can use the data when developing lunar exploration missions.

I continue to notice more and more of the undersea world that we have become residents of. The behavior of the sea life is very fascinating. This morning I was looking out the main view port at a school of about 100 blue chromis and they appeared to be moving in unison. It did not appear that as a leader moved the rest followed. It appeared that they all moved simultaneously in unison. Later a nurse shark was patrolling around our main view port. It's also fascinating to watch hunting parties of large permit fish form up and begin patrol.

Nicole Stott:

We started the day with another dive. Dave and I went out this morning and both donned the lunar backpack configuration for the center of gravity study and continued work on Waterlab. I'm really enjoying the Waterlab construction task, and also enjoyed participating in the cg study. On the way out, as I was climbing down the habitat column to the sea floor, I caught a glimpse of "our" four large spotted Eagle rays swimming in tight formation directly towards the habitat viewport -- called the sighting into the guys in the habitat, but unfortunately nobody could get to the viewport in time to see them. While we were working, the ROV joined us under the control of ExPOC in Houston to provide a little surveillance coverage of our activity. We were later joined by some of our topside friends and Dave worked with them to manipulate the ROV to assist with our construction task. Nicest though was a surprise when we discovered our families were visiting ExPOC to watch our dive -- and was even nicer to be able say a quick hello to them over the comm. (From my munchkin, "Mommy, are there any sharks out there? Over.")

When we got in from the dive, we all had a quick lunch and then got busy getting ready for the rest of the day’s activities. I set up for an educational outreach event with some schools in Canada. Ron and Tim got geared up in their wet suits and went out on a dive to assess some more of the navigation tool and diver tracking systems’ capabilities. Dave was the IV for Tim and Ron, and Jim and Ross continued to work hard at making sure everything was working for us to be able to successfully work our tasks. These guys are the greatest --- they know all the ins and outs of Aquarius, and they definitely are the main reason why we are able to operate efficiently down here!

We're sitting at the galley table writing our journals and as usual we're distracted by the beauty out the galley view port. There is always something new to see, and as time goes on there is more and more that's familiar to us too. The new thing today is our first shark sighting -- a nurse shark. Not resting on the bottom, but coming right up to the habitat just below our view port. Hard to tell its motivation, it just swam around out there for a little while and then went quietly back to the bottom. Pretty cool.

Tim Broderick:

Slept in until 6:45 a.m. this morning. It was a little chilly in the habitat last night, but I still slept well. The extra few minutes felt good as we have been going full tilt for close to three weeks. We are looking forward to a little rest on Easter Sunday.

We started the morning with an integrated dive that brought together the groups and technologies we have been evaluating during the mission. The dive focused on Dave and Nicole building Waterlab while wearing high-tech wet suits in the lunar configuration. Ron and I supported from the entry lock in the midst of a sea of computers and networking equipment. ExPOC remotely controlled Scuttle to assist with Waterlab construction and videography. Topside divers provided photo documentation. The tracking transponder tracked the position of Scuttle and Nicole. Complicated, but effective dive pulled off without issues.

We then proceeded to plan our afternoon dive. We uploaded our dive plan and terrain mapping way points from ExPOC. After a telecon briefing, Ron and I donned our suits. The terrain mapper guided us to a pre-selected point on the reef and through a grid search pattern. The guidance and search capabilities are important to search for our simulated lunar cargo vehicle later in the mission. Looking forward to the cargo vehicle surprise. Dave and Nicole confirmed optimal course and track with the transponder I was wearing.

Nicole did a great day with educational outreach during our dive. We hope to shoot some crew pictures in the evening after a late dinner. It is important to provide material to encourage pursuit of space, science, and exploration. Also, it is nice to have pictures to remember the mission by.

 NEEMO 9 Mission Journal Number 15
"The barracuda seemed particularly impressed with this new structure and hovered around the truss element facing into the current! "
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 NEEMO 9 Mission Journal Number 14
"Scuttle bunny was flying around the reef at quite a pace with test pilot Ron at the controls."
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 NEEMO 9 Mission Journal Number 13
"But what a sight after we turned off our lights. Bioluminescent creatures ... lit up the sea around us."
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 NEEMO 9 Mission Journal Number 11
"As the sun began to set in the world above, I swam into the wet porch feeling very much a resident of the reef."
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 NEEMO 9 Mission Journal Number 10
"It was pretty exciting to me to be here living and working on Aquarius on the 25th anniversary of STS-1."
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 NEEMO 9 Mission Journal Number 9
"As I write this a large sea turtle just decided to park its belly on our main view port (where I'm presently sitting)."
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 NEEMO 9 Mission Journal Number 8
"This marks the first time in human history an entire robotic surgical platform was transported to an extreme environment ... and was manipulated successfully from afar."
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 NEEMO 9 Mission Journal Number 7
"There is nothing quite like the transition from a warm bed to a cold wetsuit to wake you up in the morning!"
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 NEEMO 9 Mission Journal Number 6
"The EEG net leaves a particularly attractive series of marks on the subject's head-- looks like we have been kissed by an octopus."
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 NEEMO 9 Mission Journal Number 5
"It's ... incredible to watch the sunset from 47 feet beneath the surface."
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 NEEMO 9 Mission Journal Number 4
"Today was a day filled with outreach events, both 'educational' (to school children) and 'public affairs' (to media)."
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 NEEMO 9 Mission Journal Number 3
"One of the highlights of the day was our videoconference with Jeff Williams and Bill McArthur on the International Space Station."
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 NEEMO 9 Mission Journal Number 2
"Today at 10:38 a.m. Ron Garan, Nicole Stott, and Tim Broderick joined an elite group of people in this world who have spent 24 hours under the sea in 'saturation,' making them the world's three newest aquanauts."
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 NEEMO 9 Mission Journal Number 1
"I'm looking forward to my first night of 'sleeping with the fishes.'"
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 NEEMO 9 Training Journal Number 6
"The mission as planned will be the most complex and longest NEEMO and Aquarius mission to date."
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 NEEMO 9 Training Journal Number 5
"It was an interesting experience talking to one another and looking out the windows into the ocean while standing on the bottom at 60 feet!!"
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 NEEMO 9 Training Journal Number 4
"Ross ... intentionally swam Nicole and I around in circles to try and get us lost. He did a pretty good job!"
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 NEEMO 9 Training Journal Number 3
"The pace is beginning to pick-up with more diving tasks being added every day."
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 NEEMO 9 Training Journal Number 2
"On our way out, we saw a pod of dolphins which started following the boat and leaping out of the waves."
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 NEEMO 9 Training Journal Number 1
"Today was our first day of training in our final week before the mission."
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