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Behind the ScenesMeet the People

IMAGE: Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory
A typical day at the office for Gavin Giere includes time at the world's largest indoor pool, the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory at the Sonny Carter Training Facility.

Gavin Giere,
Johnson Space Center,
Houston, Texas

A professional scuba diver finds fulfillment in the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory

January 2003 -- Gavin Giere is fulfilling a dream that began with a tour of a NASA facility just seven years ago. While at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, Giere and his family watched divers in action at the Weightless Environmental Training Facility, the predecessor of the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory, or NBL. During the tour, his family commented on the possibility of Giere working for NASA in the future, since he was a commercial scuba diver.

"As I watched the divers in action," Giere said, "I thought about how much I would enjoy working with our future space explorers while using my prior training in diving and emergency medicine."

Giere attended and graduated from a number of military and technical schools in the field of emergency/surgical medicine, as well as a commercial diver school. He felt that such an opportunity would never come his way. But just one year later, Giere received notice of a diving opening at the new NBL. After two interviews, he began work on March 1, 1999.

Today, Giere is the assistant dive operations training officer at the NBL. He trains new divers and conducts regular refresher courses for current divers. The divers provide assistance in the training of astronauts in a simulated zero-gravity environment. In the pool, astronauts practice for the future spacewalks needed to build the International Space Station. The divers' main concern is keeping the astronauts or suited subjects safe during testing operations. Divers are also trained to use underwater video cameras to provide footage of the performance of suited subjects.

IMAGE: Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory
"Math and science can not only be fun, but can save a life."

Giere remembers a time when he played a realtime role in solving a potential problem in orbit. On May 20, 2000, Giere was on call for STS-101, in case any problems were encountered in orbit that the NBL team could replicate in the pool.

"My pager went off that Saturday morning and I was told that I was needed to dive," Giere said. "We had been contacted by Houston Mission Control that the STS-101 crew had a question about storing an Orbital Transfer Device if it did not fit in its stowage position."

Once the dive team was assembled, Giere worked with one other NBL diver, two engineers and two astronauts. They dived in and succeeded in finding a temporary stowage location.

"It was a great feeling to be a part of the solution to a possible impending problem," Giere said.

Fortunately, the mission tasks were completed as originally intended and his team's solution was not needed. However, the crew and many others thanked the dive team after the mission for helping to solve a potential problem that could have left the crew without a place to put a fundamental piece of hardware.

Giere shares a message to those who want to work in the space program: "Remember that education is important. Math and science can not only be fun, but can save a life. I use them every day as a diver, and I know the importance it plays in allowing me to go home to my family every night."

Giere finished with a reminder to all: "Do not give up on your dreams. [They] may take longer than you wish, but in the end, they still can come true. The sky is not the limit, when we consider our mission for sea and space exploration."

Curator: Kim Dismukes | Responsible NASA Official: John Ira Petty | Updated: 06/23/2003
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