Herrington prepares for a spacewalk during STS-113 in
6, John Herrington
Day 2, Monday, July 13, 2004
What a day!
Waking up to the sight of a four- or five-foot barracuda (had to
be at least seven feet long, but I'm making it smaller just so it
will be believable) swimming by the bow window, smacking his jaws
after his morning meal. He came out of the darkness straight for
the window, with a big toothy grin!
I feel much like I did in-flight on STS-113. Down here at a depth
of 46 feet you experience about 2.5 atmospheres. On the surface
you are at one atmosphere, so the pressure down here is greater
by two-and-one-half times. The first thing you realize is that you
talk funny. Much more nasal than on the surface. I sound like I've
been sucking on a helium balloon and trying to chat. Also, I feel
much more congested. I can still clear my ears, but I feel like
I have more sinus congestion. I felt the same type of stuffy feeling
in orbit, but it was due to the fluid shift from microgravity. Either
way, the stuffy feeling is manageable and not an issue. For my crewmates,
this is certainly a good taste for what it will be like on orbit.
Our first event
of the day was a public affairs event with some morning news programs
in Colorado and Oklahoma. Unfortunately, technical difficulties
prevented our connecting, but we appreciate everyone's efforts in
trying to make it work. Our connection to a Houston newspaper came
off without a hitch.
Our first EVA
took us down to the pinnacle excursion line. The current started
out strong from the northeast, but eventually came back around from
the southwest. It made for slow going out to the end of the excursion
line, roughly 750 feet from the habitat. Seven hundred and fifty
feet may not seem like much on the ground, but when you are bucking
a current, sucking down air from a mask and you can only see about
25 feet in front of you, it gets to be a challenge. The first dive
went fine and we returned to the habitat on time.
Wheels (Doug Wheelock) and I made our way to the grating located
just to the left side of the habitat. We donned a separate breathing
apparatus which allowed us to dive without the use of our big twin
cylinder diving gear. We simulated the weightlessness of being on
orbit by becoming neutrally buoyant, just like floating below the
surface of a swimming pool. Using some gear sent down from the surface,
we practiced isometric stretching exercises. The intent was to determine
if we could conduct these exercises in a weightless manner. These
exercises may one day allow us to use isometric stretching in place
of some resistive exercises to maintain muscle mass on orbit. We
are just trying to determine if we can get in the proper body position
without spinning out of control. Not something you can simulate
standing on the ground.
the stretching (good workout prior to our EVA) Wheels and I headed
out to "tag" the pinnacle excursion line. By tagging the
line, Wheels and I placed markers every 50 feet and reported back
to mission control in Houston (known as the ExPOC, Expedition Operations
Center). Handling these little tiny tags and wrapping them around
the line using small plastic wire ties turned out to be a handful
(no pun intended). We had planned on tagging four separate lines,
but ended up only completing one line. The current and visibility
were certainly factors, but I believe we could have helped ourselves
by rearranging our hardware such that it was easier to get the tags
off and wrapped on the line. Better planning on my part may have
allowed me to work the task more efficiently without needing more
than two hands. At times I had to hold the tape measure between
my knees while threading the wire ties through the tag and back
onto itself. For someone with 45-year-old eyes, focusing on something
so small (in the water) is quite a challenge and it makes the task
just that much more difficult. When training for space flight we
have the opportunity to train numerous times in the Neutral Buoyancy
Lab before we actually perform the EVA. Down here we have not had
that luxury, but I think this task forces us to think on our feet
and come up with a plan as we go. Being able to quickly adapt to
changing situations is a must for space flight EVAs and the training
we get down here drives that home.
the tagging, we filled our tanks at the way station and headed back
to the habitat. I wanted to finish the remainder of our tagging
on the south pinnacle line, but my team inside reminded me that
we had a PAO event at 1700.
to departing the pinnacle way station, I looked back to see Wheels
and he was pointing past me with his eyes as wide as saucers. I
turned around to see a flash of white loop in front of me. As it
came closer, I could make out that it was a huge manta ray performing
loops in what appeared to be a feeding pattern. He glided by performing
loop after loop. I floated there in awestruck disbelief at what
I had just seen. What a magnificent creature!
amazing show we turned toward home. We hustled back to the wet porch
and quickly doffed our dive gear. Our PAO events came off well and
we settled down for a planning conference with our topside support
team. We discussed changes to tomorrow's plan and the lessons learned
from today. Even mistakes are discussed with the understanding that
this is a learning process and each lesson will teach us something
been prepared collectively and shared with the crew. Most of it
is freeze-dried camping food with a few exceptions for snacks. I
find that I eat on the go in space and down here it is no different.
You have a lot to do and you find the time to eat as time allows.
e-mail for the day, I decided to climb in my bunk and type using
a portable keyboard and my personal digital assistant. I have the
bow window at my feet and the bow lights are turned on bright. What's
amazing is the number of small animals that inhabit this water.
Tiny creatures flittering about like bugs under the porch light
on a hot summer night.
of fish will gather about the windows and dart about as if tied
together by some invisible string. The only time they part is when
a larger fish swims through hoping for a meal. As the fish passes,
the group will gather together again and begin the same fluid dance.
I am very fortunate
to have the opportunity to work in such a remarkable place. Working
with such fantastic people makes this all the more enjoyable. When
I flew aboard the Endeavour on STS-113, I marveled at Mother Earth
as I flew above her! Now, from here in Aquarius, I have the opportunity
to view her from within. From high above you cannot make out the
individual. You see things on a grand scale and marvel at the enormity
of it all. The view from above reminds me of how insignificant the
individual really is. But down here, you see the tiniest creature
managing its own existence. Down here you see predator and prey.
I have had
the unique opportunity to view both perspectives and they fit together
in an odd, mysterious sort of way. In orbit, you can't make out
the details, but you know in your heart there are huge chasms that
divide us, ideologically speaking. When viewed from within, there
is a clear distinction between friend and foe. You see it and you
can almost reach out and touch it. There is some meaning here that
I'll take with me when I leave. Perhaps a better sense of my place
in the world above.
So as I kick
back and pull the covers over, I'll glance out the bow window and
look into the darkness. Every so often, my barracuda friend will
swim out of the shadows, sporting that big toothy grin...