Dory, left, and Danny Olivas in Aquarius.
3, Jonathan Dory
Day 3, Wednesday, July 17, 2002
Today has been
an outstanding day. As usual, we all awoke at 0600 to a nice hot
bag of Kona coffee, prepared fresh from concentrate and served from
an aluminum beverage bag, NASA style.
The first item
on the agenda was to perform the construction task, generically
called waterlab. This task required assembling a roughly 3 x 3 x
5 meter frame that was prefabricated before the mission. The idea
was for the crew, working in two teams, to assemble the roughly
130 parts and bolt them all together as illustrated in the provided
schematic. Working with complex assemblies while using tools, managing
time, air, and buoyancy, all came together to provide an excellent
analogy for performing EVA assembly operations on the International
Space Station. Knowing that successfully completing waterlab would
be difficult, we all worked together to formulate a plan for assembling
waterlab before we came down to Aquarius. We took the large assembly,
and thought of it in terms of separate smaller assemblies, then
created a new set of schematics to illustrate each small assembly
and how they all fit together - a classic case of divide and conquer.
In the end, we were able put together the whole assembly in half
the time we initially planned. At first, it was disappointing to
have the task that we had thought through and carefully planned
for so long behind us, but in the end, the lesson was obvious: be
prepared. All of our planning paid off and everything went just
as it should have.
One dive behind
us, Greg and I returned to the habitat for a scheduled Educational
Outreach teleconference organized by NASA Quest. Smitty, Byron,
Greg and I all got the opportunity to share our experience with
a multitude of people out there on the internet. Between switching
cameras, moving microphones, and lenses fogging up on the wet porch,
the event was a little chaotic. Overall though, I think it was a
huge success. We ended up with some great serendipitous shots of
Jeff and Danny entering through the moon pool and a nice segue from
how we get air down here, to what we do if we run out (the guys
outside were buddy breathing at the window). Jeff and Danny even
made it inside in time to get on the teleconference for some questions
at the end.
The final dive
was initially scheduled as a test of the underwater OTS comm units
patched back to Houston. We were having some problems with the comm
box, despite Byron's valiant efforts to repair it and some excellent
troubleshooting from topside, so Houston never did get patched in.
We decided to replan the dive, making the primary objective to conduct
some coral science on the NE excursion line, with a secondary objective
to perform periodic tests of the comm back to Aquarius. Greg and
Danny departed first, and Jeff and I were to follow about an hour
later. When Jeff and I got out to the site, we found the current
was ripping, making it tough to just get to the excursion line.
Making the excursion out to the NE way station took all our efforts
pulling with our arms just to fight against the pull of water. Needless
to day, we called off the coral science effort as it would have
been folly to get 25 meters or more from the excursion line in such
The reef gets
fairly shallow out to the NE, so in order to keep from blowing our
ceiling depth on excursion, Jeff and I dropped below the line, still
pulling with our arms, inverted. What an adventure to see the corals
and fishes overhead as we went flying through the reef upside down.
After checking in at the way station and topping off our scuba tanks
with air, Jeff and decided to head back to Aquarius. This time,
the trip was much smoother. We simply pulled up our legs and arms
and let the current sweep us back to home, with an occasional kick
to stay near the excursion line. It felt to me very much like a
horizontal skydive, with water instead of gravity doing all the
work. We arrived at Aquarius with plenty of time left to enjoy the
local scenery. What a site! I recall the surreal feeling of looking
at our new home, blue sky above filled with a school of 1 1/2 meter
barracuda for clouds, and a big yellow life support buoy for a sun.
What a truly unique place this is to live and work.