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NEEMO 6 Commander
IMAGE: NEEMO 6 Commander John Herrington
NEEMO 6 Commander John Herrington
*NEEMO 6 Journals
*Aquanaut Profile: John Herrington

NEEMO 6 Journals

NEEMO 6, John Herrington
Day 3, Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Do you ever recall sitting down with a box of Tinkertoys, piled high on the living room floor? Remember taking each piece and meticulously putting them together? Now, take that same box of toys, put them together in nice orderly groups, wrap some rubber bands around the most important ones, shove them into dive bags, and place them on the surface of the ocean. Okay, now don your dive gear, put on a mask, swim to the bottom of the ocean, retrieve each piece and put it all together. Oh yes, each piece must go together in a particular order and you have to line up the bolt holes just right. And if the holes don't line up, swap ends. If they still don't line up, figure out what you did wrong and come up with a solution, right there, right now. All the while, mission control is trying to reach you on your communication gear, your own breathing is preventing you from hearing each call. So, you time your breaths to coincide with the call, hoping you might make out part of it. While, unbeknownst to you, your partner notices an extremely large fish, roughly the same size and weight as your 9-year-old daughter has saddled up beside you. You, of course, do not have a clue this aquatic behemoth is within feeding distance. You are too intent on the job at hand. Such is the life of the aquanaut/astronaut.

Another fabulously marvelous day beneath the waves. At least, I think there are waves up there. You can watch your bubbles float to the surface and make out the ripples on top. I have not been down here long enough to determine how big the sea state is, just by looking up. I guess you could eventually, but right now we just don't have the time to spend looking up. Too much to do down here. That's exactly the way it is in space. People are always curious what the Earth looks like from above. You spend so much time working, that to actually look at the window for pleasure is a rare occurrence. During my spacewalks, I had to make a conscious effort to look around and appreciate my surroundings. You are sometimes just too busy to really absorb the sights around you. If we had not delayed our landing on STS-113, I would not have taken a picture out of the window for pleasure. That's like driving by the Grand Canyon with a camera by your side and not bothering to stop because you have to make Las Vegas by nightfall. Been there?

Our water-lab task is certainly a challenge. The pieces are not going together as we planned. We have had to improvise to make it work. Tomorrow, we will tackle the problem as a group of four. We will divide and conquer and we will succeed! This task is another good example of how hard a spacewalk can be. Worksite body position is everything. If you try and accept a position that is not optimal, it will come back to bite you. Steady yourself in your worksite, have your tools at hand, properly tethered, evaluate the hardware, position it accordingly, and blame the engineer when it doesn't fit right. ;o)

This day has been challenging for all of us. A bit of frustration working the task, difficulties communicating with the ground team, the plan not coming together as we anticipated. Tomorrow we will use the lessons we learned today and make it better. We will rise to the occasion and make the most with what we have at hand. If we had lemons, we could make an ocean of lemonade!

Every feeling I have experienced today, I experienced in-flight (with the exception of getting wet). Being adaptable is what it is all about. The "human" in human space flight. The human in the loop. For all of the wonderful images and data that we have received from robotic exploration, they will pale in comparison to the first words spoken from Mars. To hear the words describing the vista, a vivid explanation of the glow of the Martian sunset, the heartfelt thanks to all who made it possible for a human to walk a path on a distant planet. These are the things that we are capable of doing. I truly believe that the person who will have this opportunity is alive today. Perhaps she is reading a science textbook or he is strolling across the campus on the way to an exam. There is someone out there, who occasionally looks up on a star-filled night and wonders... Could it be me? Yes it can...

Curator: Kim Dismukes | Responsible NASA Official: John Ira Petty | Updated: 07/16/2004
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