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NEEMO 6 Crew
IMAGE:  Mission Specialists Doug Wheelock and Nick Patrick
From left, Mission Specialists Doug Wheelock and Nick Patrick.
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NEEMO 6 Journals

Topside Journal #4

Editor's note: Marc Reagan is the mission director for the NEEMO 6 mission. This is the fourth of a series of daily reports documenting the undersea activities of the NEEMO 6 crew and its Topside Team of supporters in Key Largo, Florida.

Greetings!

Standing tall and proud on the shifting white sands meters from the Aquarius habitat lies a glistening new visitor to the reef today. At first glance, it may look like a jumbled maze of extruded polyvinyl chloride held together by bolts and wire ties, but this demon of the deep is actually a unique in-water crew task training exercise called Waterlab.

For the fifth mission in a row, NEEMO aquanauts have had the opportunity to assemble this unique and challenging structure. Designed as an EVA type task exercise, Waterlab has proven to be a favorite task of previous NEEMO crews. Given a simple set of schematics, hundreds of feet of pre-cut pieces of PVC and thousands of bolts and nuts, the crew is tasked with coming up with a plan to build the structure in a set of three stages (dives) and to follow all of the safety limitations put upon them. Sound simple? It’s not. Off the sea bottom, it stands almost 24 feet tall, and includes an intricate truss structure, solar array and antenna. Add in to the mix mild current, depth limitations (in this case ceiling), tool and parts management, changing environmental conditions, communication to the Mission Control team, and time and consumable limitations, and you have a surprisingly difficult and formidable task. Crew preparation and planning are keys to the success of this endeavor. You will be happy to learn that as in previous NEEMO missions, the crew was up to the task under the analytical guidance of Nick, who had obviously spent a fair amount of time strategizing on efficient ways to approach the task.

As in previous missions, we are happy to report that the seemingly homeless squadron of barracuda has again quickly taken up residence, this time appearing to prefer the solar array area.

From the beginning of the program, there has always been a strong relationship between the community of divers on the Neutral Buoyancy Lab (the enormous pool where we train astronauts for spacewalks) team and the NEEMO teams. The staff at the NBL has been gracious enough to provide all of our crews with medical and safety training as well as always being supportive of our dive requirements while in Houston. Therefore, we were very pleased when they accepted our offer to have two of the Oceaneering dive staff, Brent Fergurson and Greg Sims, support the mission from here in Key Largo. We are happy to report that the guys dove right into the task and were welcomed by the NURC staff immediately. They have helped transfer down hardware to the crew, scrubbed and performed maintenance on the habitat, “re-worked” our Waterlab tools, and done it all with a smile. That was on Monday….

Finally today, the Aquarius crew got a chance to talk to our old and mutual friend Mike Fincke, the Science Officer aboard the International Space Station. Mike was the Commander of the NEEMO 2 mission, and has always been very supportive of our efforts. Despite some technical difficulties, the two crews had a good chat and got to swap stories about two of the most “out of this world” experiences happening today. Our deepest thanks to the many people that helped make this linkup work today.

Until next time…

- NEEMO Topside Team


Curator: Kim Dismukes | Responsible NASA Official: John Ira Petty | Updated: 07/19/2004
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