NEEMO-7 diver participates in exercises off the coast of Key Largo, Fla.|
7, Topside Team
Day 10, October 20, 2004
7 is almost in the history books. We have had a very successful and rewarding
mission, and have demonstrated that tele-mentored and tele-robotic surgery can
be accomplished even in some of the most extreme environments on earth. At the
same time, we've been able to exercise many different concepts and techniques
that may be useful in taking NASA on to bolder adventures at the Moon and Mars.
But the clock is running out, and today marked what we call "deco" day.
you now know, the crew has spent the last nine days at a depth of 47 feet. At
that depth, their bodies have taken on excess amounts of nitrogen which has been
absorbed in their body tissues and must be removed. In order to return to the
surface, they will have to go thru a 16-plus-hour process called "decompression"
or "deco." This is a very safe procedure which is accomplished in several steps:
1) The crew breathes pure oxygen for 3 short intervals to help decrease or "wash
out" the nitrogen in their blood; 2) the main living quarters are "locked out"
from the "wet porch" area and the internal habitat pressure is slowly brought
to the surface pressure by exhausting the internal air to the surface (14 hours);
and finally 3) the habitat is "blown down" to the 47 foot level again in just
a few minutes. Then the hatch is opened and the crew swims slowly to the surface
under the watchful eye of escorting safety divers. They should be on the surface
about 9 am on Thursday, where we (the Topside Team) will be waiting on the boat
to take them home under the expert supervision of Mike Birns, Day Boat Science
we get back tomorrow, the crew will get a chance to relax and enjoy the fresh
air. They're prohibited from leaving the area for 24 to 48 hours if leaving by
air (which they all are). This gives the doctor a chance to closely observe them
for any signs of decompression problems, and treat them immediately if any show
up. That's just a precaution, though -- this approach to decompression has been
used hundreds of times successfully so far and is considered to be quite safe
and conservative. They're not really supposed to leave the base tomorrow, but
we've arranged for their docs - Dr. Gerard DeMers, on loan from the US Navy, and
Dr. Jean-Marc Comtois, from the Canadian Space Agency - to accompany them to lunch
tomorrow so they can have some "real" food. They'll spend the afternoon relaxing,
washing clothes, and packing up (and hopefully helping us pack all this stuff
we have to ship back to Houston!) In the evening we'll have the traditional "Splashup
Party" with our NURC hosts to celebrate the successful conclusion of the mission.
We want to take
this opportunity to thank our hosts here at the National Undersea Research Center.
Their professionalism and commitment to safety is second to none. They take great
care of the nation's only undersea research facility, they keep a close eye on
our NASA/CSA/CMAS crewmembers, and they take great care of our topside team and
visitors. So to the habitat technicians, Billy Cooksey and James Talacek -- a
hearty "thank you" from us for teaching our crewmembers how to live as aquanauts.
To Mark "Otter" Hulsbeck and Ross Hein, a sincere thanks for the great training
you gave them. To Jim Buckley and Craig Cooper, thanks for managing these missions
so professionally. For Kea Foreman and Dominic Landucci, a special thanks for
all the time you put into making it possible for Aquarius to meet all the demanding
technical requirements of this mission. And for the rest of the Aquarius side
staff who potted daily, manned the watchdesk 24/7, and did it all with a smile,
we can't thank you enough. Finally, a special and sincere thanks to Otto, Mike,
and Brady for being our boat captains for the last three weeks. We couldn't have
done it without you all.