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IMAGE: A stingray is photographed by a NEEMO 6 crewmember during a dive.
A stingray is photographed by a NEEMO 6 crewmember during a dive.
*NEEMO 6 Journals
*Aquanaut Profile: John Herrington

NEEMO 6 Journals

NEEMO 6, John Herrington
Day 9, Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Well, I've just completed my 100% oxygen pre-breathe for our decompression. The interior of the habitat is slowly being vented back to a sea level atmosphere. I believe the current depth is equivalent to about 21 feet as I type. The legs of the habitat still firmly rest at 63 feet, but we are essentially climbing the water column, so to speak, very slowly over a 16-hour period. Having been at depth for a period of time and breathing compressed air, our tissues have become saturated with nitrogen. If we rose too quickly to the surface, that excess nitrogen that we have stored in our bodies would come out of solution and cause what is known as decompression sickness (DCS). Any time you SCUBA dive at depth of an extended period of time, you risk contracting the bends if you ascend too rapidly to the surface. There are other medical conditions that could arise, but our primary concern is DCS.

Our last two days have been filled with a myriad of events. Educational outreach through video-teleconferencing, a visit by reporters from a major news network, exercise on the resistive exercise device, stretching while floating outside the habitat on an air umbilical, coral science, wireless monitor evaluations, electronic tracking device evals, and on and on and on. There has been a lot of work that has kept us on our toes.

During the interview with the news program, I was asked, "Should we be down here? Do we really belong here?" I responded with how important it is to be here and most importantly, why we need to be in space, that we go where our minds take us. Taking that answer further, I would have to say, we go to places like this to learn more about ourselves. Whether it is in the ocean or above the planet. We learn more about how we impact the world we live in by looking at it from a different perspective. Looking out the window and seeing a fish swim by with a large hook in its mouth, trailing a foot of fishing line. Seeing a bottle buried in the sand and realizing a fish has now made it his home. The habitat we live in is completely foreign to this environment, yet its outer structure has become a refuge to thousands of fish. It provides a sanctuary as well as a food source. We don't belong, yet we do.

The same can be said of our journeys in space. It is an environment that is inhospitable to humans, yet we have found a way to live and work productively for long periods of time. And the benefits of our efforts have profoundly changed the technological face of the Earth. I also believe it has deeply influenced our appreciation of the world we live in and strengthened our role as stewards of our environment.

Throughout my career, I have always heard the term "scope-locked" used to describe someone who did not see the big picture. They were too engrossed in the details to stop and look at how everything comes together. Most often the solution to a problem lies in seeing how all of the pieces fit together. I believe living and working underwater or over the planet does just that, it gives us the big picture. And this picture should keep growing. It should not end in low-Earth orbit or the depths of the sea, but should continue beyond the horizon.

Curator: Kim Dismukes | Responsible NASA Official: John Ira Petty | Updated: 07/27/2004
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