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NEEMO 6 Journals

NEEMO 6 Videoconference
IMAGE: Expedition 9 NASA ISS Science Officer Mike Fincke participates in a videoconference with the NEEMO 6 crew.
Expedition 9 NASA ISS Science Officer Mike Fincke participates in a videoconference with the NEEMO 6 crew.
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Topside Journals #7

Editor's note: Marc Reagan is the mission director for the NEEMO 6 mission. This is the seventh 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!

Ever heard of Stephanocoenia Michelini or Siderastrea Siderea? How about Porites Astreiodes, Montastaea Cavernosa, or Agarcia Agaticites? These are not exotic new diseases being studied on NEEMO 6, but rather types of coral that our crew has been working vigorously to measure, photograph, and document!

The crew members have become proxy scientists for the National Undersea Research Center in the realm of coral science. Our NEEMO crews help add to the long term database on coral health in the Florida Keys, and at the same time develop basic skills that will be required on their space flights: learning about something they probably don't know much about, and being the hands and eyes of the "real" scientist who can't be there. This week the crew embarked on three coral science dives, each with ExPOC support. During these dives, the aquanauts used transect lines to cordon off an area in which they worked. Within that area they then selected the largest corals to study. After selecting them, they measured the coral and recorded the data. Then they made an evaluation of the coral that they were studying and estimated the percent living vs. dead coral on each colony. They recorded their answers on underwater slates, and also took a short video clip of each coral so the species could be identified later. This field research, coupled with the dynamic underwater environment, creates a challenging task for our aquanauts and allows them to demonstrate and utilize both their diving and scientific skills. This was the most challenging diving they'll do this mission, and it's fitting that it be at the end when their skills have been honed to a high degree.

We hope that these dives provide NOAA with data that presents an overview of the health of various areas of the reef. Our data from this study will be compared to long term research at the site to evaluate the overall condition of the coral reef. Data has revealed that only 7.3% of the coral reef in the Florida Keys is living. Coral reefs are the rainforests of the oceans. An amazingly high percentage of the total species found in the seas live on coral reefs. In recent years coral reefs have declined around the world. Understanding this decline, and the human contributions to it, may give us the knowledge to reverse the trend. While our contribution to this study may be a small one, we are proud of the relationship that has developed between NASA and NOAA through this and the previous NASA NEEMO missions.

IMAGE: The NEEMO 6 crewmembers are studying coral.

The NEEMO 6 crewmembers are studying coral.

The Basic Tools of Coral Science

The NEEMO Aquanauts have seen a wide variety of sea life on the reef. From the grouper who tends to hang around near the habitat to the barracuda who made waterlab their new home, to the aileron-rolling nurse shark they observed on the night dive last night, the NEEMO 6 crew has embraced their new environment and taken the time to stop and enjoy the view. A large barracuda tends to hang out near the viewport which is near the galley table, and the crew has named him BOB (as in Big Ol' Barracuda... actually, we understand Craig Cooper, the senior habitat technician on this mission, came up with this name. Clearly he's been hanging out with us NASA people too long when he starts using acronyms to name the fish :-) )

One of the crewmembers confided last night that he was "forever changed by this experience." We know what he means. It starts out as mission designed to be a space analog and make better prepared astronauts (among other things). But along the way you find that you've developed a bond with the vibrant, dynamic life cycle of the sea during the course of the mission. We know that they are very conflicted right now as their mission nears its end: excited to be joining their friends and family again, happy that they've accomplished a successful mission, and yet amazed that the time has flown by so quickly. They can scarcely believe it's almost over, and we’re confident they're all a little bit sad it has to end so soon.

This weekend ISS Science Officer Mike Fincke called and requested that we set up a videoconference for him to talk with the Topside Team and professionals at NURC. The ISS Flight Control team and Kea Foreman at NURC made it happen today - seamlessly. It was standing room only on our side, as all of his friends here eagerly greeted him. (It was floating room only on his side, of course.) Mike instinctively understands something that most people don’t realize: that for every successful mission like this, there are a lot of unsung heroes behind the scenes making it happen. In this case, the crew at NURC is definitely in that category. They keep Aquarius - the only operational undersea research facility in the world - operating year after year, and take justifiable pride in doing so. They provide two professional aquanauts - in this case Craig Cooper and Joe March - for each mission to keep our NASA crew healthy and safe. They man a watch desk 24/7 during each mission with great diligence. They’re ready at the drop of a hat to get on a boat on a stormy night and restart the generators on the Life Support Buoy. And they do it all with a smile. There’s not a one of them who can’t wear at least three hats with ease. Being recognized by Mike today was really a treat, because he’s seen first hand the professionalism they display, and he took the time to compliment them on it. It was a nice treat for the Topside Team, too, as we’ve all become fast friends with him.

We’re winding down… Thanks for staying with us!

- NEEMO Topside Team


Curator: Kim Dismukes | Responsible NASA Official: John Ira Petty | Updated: 07/20/2004
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