left, Mission Specialists Doug Wheelock and Nick Patrick.|
note: Marc Reagan is the mission director for the NEEMO 6 mission.
This is the fourth of a series of daily reports documenting the
undersea activities of the NEEMO 6 crew and its Topside Team of
supporters in Key Largo, Florida.
Standing tall and proud
on the shifting white sands meters from the Aquarius habitat lies
a glistening new visitor to the reef today. At first glance, it
may look like a jumbled maze of extruded polyvinyl chloride held
together by bolts and wire ties, but this demon of the deep is actually
a unique in-water crew task training exercise called Waterlab.
For the fifth mission
in a row, NEEMO aquanauts have had the opportunity to assemble this
unique and challenging structure. Designed as an EVA type task exercise,
Waterlab has proven to be a favorite task of previous NEEMO crews.
Given a simple set of schematics, hundreds of feet of pre-cut pieces
of PVC and thousands of bolts and nuts, the crew is tasked with
coming up with a plan to build the structure in a set of three stages
(dives) and to follow all of the safety limitations put upon them.
Sound simple? It’s not. Off the sea bottom, it stands almost
24 feet tall, and includes an intricate truss structure, solar array
and antenna. Add in to the mix mild current, depth limitations (in
this case ceiling), tool and parts management, changing environmental
conditions, communication to the Mission Control team, and time
and consumable limitations, and you have a surprisingly difficult
and formidable task. Crew preparation and planning are keys to the
success of this endeavor. You will be happy to learn that as in
previous NEEMO missions, the crew was up to the task under the analytical
guidance of Nick, who had obviously spent a fair amount of time
strategizing on efficient ways to approach the task.
As in previous
missions, we are happy to report that the seemingly homeless squadron
of barracuda has again quickly taken up residence, this time appearing
to prefer the solar array area.
From the beginning of the program, there has always been a strong
relationship between the community of divers on the Neutral Buoyancy
Lab (the enormous pool where we train astronauts for spacewalks)
team and the NEEMO teams. The staff at the NBL has been gracious
enough to provide all of our crews with medical and safety training
as well as always being supportive of our dive requirements while
in Houston. Therefore, we were very pleased when they accepted our
offer to have two of the Oceaneering dive staff, Brent Fergurson
and Greg Sims, support the mission from here in Key Largo. We are
happy to report that the guys dove right into the task and were
welcomed by the NURC staff immediately. They have helped transfer
down hardware to the crew, scrubbed and performed maintenance on
the habitat, “re-worked” our Waterlab tools, and done
it all with a smile. That was on Monday….
Finally today, the Aquarius crew got a chance to talk to our old
and mutual friend Mike Fincke, the Science Officer aboard the International
Space Station. Mike was the Commander of the NEEMO 2 mission, and
has always been very supportive of our efforts. Despite some technical
difficulties, the two crews had a good chat and got to swap stories
about two of the most “out of this world” experiences
happening today. Our deepest thanks to the many people that helped
make this linkup work today.
Until next time…
- NEEMO Topside Team