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NEEMO 5 Experiment

IMAGE: Peggy Whitson

NEEMO 5 Aquanaut Peggy Whitson searches near the ocean floor while performing an extravehicular activity near the Aquarius research habitat.

*NEEMO 5 Journals
*Aquanaut Profile: Clayton Anderson

NEEMO 5 Journals

NEEMO 5, Peggy Whitson
Day 12, Friday, June 27, 2003

This morning started off early, with us leaving the habitat just after 6 a.m. The best part about this dive was that the only objective was to have some fun! We videotaped some of the "night-life" using our flashlights to illuminate those interesting anemone I described earlier and some of the other dramatic colors in the corals that decorate the habitat.

Then, as dawn approached, we explored the 5th Leg. We have 5 different "excursion lines" that radiate from the habitat. We use these as our "roads", so that we don't get lost. You might be surprised how easy it is to get disoriented in the water, especially at those times when visibility is limited. In fact, if we want to travel out of range of site of the excursion line, we have to attach another line from one of our reels of string onto this line so that we will always have a way to get back. With saturation diving, going to the surface to get a bearing on the life support buoy is only a last ditch method of finding your way home.

We had spent 4 days this week on the 5th Leg doing coral science research, and it now is familiar stomping grounds. The dimensions, coral health and videotape will hopefully prove valuable in an ongoing research project to map the coral life on this reef. This project is especially interesting to me because while on orbit, I also participated in a coral mapping study in which designated reefs were photographed from our vantage point in space to help the folks on Earth who were conducting studies on and mapping coral reefs. Coral from underwater is extraordinary, with all different shapes, textures, colors and sizes. While I really enjoyed this close-up of the coral reef, the view from space looks like the work of an artist's hands in all shades imaginable (and then some more) of aqua, blue and white.

We had seen numerous types of wildlife during the week on the 5th Leg, and we wondered what types we might observe in the early morning hours. The large moray eel was not sleeping in his cubby hole of coral and sand that we had found him in on a couple of occasions earlier this week, but we found a spotted eel that didn't look all that pleased that we had disturbed him.

We also spotted a jellyfish by chance. It's nearly invisible body is made up of wings, with the only really distinguishing and slightly more visible characteristic being the dual horn-like structures along it's back. You pretty much have to take our word for it that we saw it, since the video camera couldn't quite manage to find anything to focus on!

After returning to the habitat for an air refill, we headed out the Pinnacle excursion line. This line is my favorite because the terrain drops steeply away to one side and climbs on the other side. The reefs form rows, running downhill, with white sand beds between. Previously, in this area we had experienced what an upwelling feels like. Cold water, filled with nutrients, can really reduce the visibility and change the water temperature dramatically over a very short distance. This morning the visibility was good enough to enjoy the expanse and dramatic relief of the coral reef surrounding us.

To end our final dive we videotaped stupid aquanaut tricks. Skills in diving off the edge of the platforms, solo and synchronized, playing leap frog, and pyramid building were all captured on videotape for posterity (or not). All in all, we had a great time inside and outside this habitat.

I am convinced that Aquarius can provide some very valuable training, especially when we combine flown and unflown astronauts to share in the experiences that mimic/simulate some aspects of space flight. I also think that our data/testing will show that this environment is a good one for testing hardware and procedures that might be used on the space station or mimic some of the physiologic effects of living in an isolated/extreme environment.

Much like being in space, it is difficult to imagine that the mission is coming to a close and that we must leave. I know that on my next trip in orbit, I will look on these waters with the perspective of familiarity and awe now that I have had the opportunity to explore this area from such dramatically different viewpoints.

Curator: Kim Dismukes | Responsible NASA Official: John Ira Petty | Updated: 06/30/2003
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