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NEEMO 6 Journals

NEEMO 6 Topside Team
IMAGE:  Astronaut/aquanauts Nick Patrick and Doug Wheelock
Astronaut/aquanauts Nick Patrick and Doug Wheelock attach an identifier tag to a line during a shared dive in the waters off the Florida Keys as part of NEEMO 6 activity.
*NEEMO 6 Journals
*NEEMO 6 crew page

Topside Journal #8

Editor's note: Marc Reagan is the mission director for the NEEMO 6 mission. This is the eighth 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.


NEEMO 6 is almost in the history books. They have had a very successful and rewarding mission, which has run the gamut from investigating new engineering hardware, software and procedures, to learning to be proxy scientists on the coral reef outside their home. They've done multiple educational outreach and public affairs events, built waterlab, tagged and characterized the excursion lines around the habitat, and worked with a mission control team in Houston. All the while they were using new timeline and procedure viewing tools operationally for the first time

As you now know, the crew has spent the last 9 days at a depth of 47 feet. At that depth, their bodies have taken on excess amounts of nitrogen which has been absorbed in their body tissues and must be removed. In order to return to the surface, they will have to go thru a 16 hour process called "decompression" or "deco." This is a very safe procedure which is accomplished in several steps: 1) The crew breathes pure oxygen for 3 short intervals to help decrease or "washout" the nitrogen in their blood; 2) the main living quarters are "locked out" from the "wet porch" area and the internal habitat pressure is slowly brought to the surface pressure by exhausting the internal air to the surface (14 hours); and finally 3) the habitat is "blown down" to the 47 foot level again in just a few minutes. Then the hatch is opened and the crew swims slowly to the surface under the watchful eye of escorting safety divers. They should be on the surface at ~ 9:00 am on Wednesday, where we (the Topside Team) will be waiting on the boat to take them home under the expert supervision of Otto Rutten, the Base Manager of the NURC operations here in Key Largo. There are few people in this world as good at what they do as Otto - what a nice feeling to know he'll be there to get you safely home…

When we get back tomorrow, the crew will get a chance to relax and enjoy the fresh air. They're prohibited from leaving the area for 24 hrs - 48 hrs if leaving by air (which they all are.) This gives the doc a chance to closely observe them for any signs of decompression problems, and treat them immediately if any show up. That's just a precaution, though - this approach to decompression has been done hundreds of times successfully so far and is considered to be quite safe and conservative. They're not really supposed to leave the base tomorrow, but we've arranged for their doc - Dr. Scott Sparks, on loan from the Navy - to accompany them to lunch tomorrow so they can have some "real" food. They'll spend the afternoon relaxing, washing clothes, packing up (and hopefully helping us pack all this engineering hardware to be shipped back to Houston!) In the evening we'll have the traditional "Splashup" party with our NURC hosts to celebrate the successful conclusion of the mission. Part of the NEEMO 7 crew, who have been in town for the last few days getting some preliminary training for their mission, will be joining us. NEEMO 7 starts in October…not much time to rest up!

- NEEMO Topside Team

Curator: Kim Dismukes | Responsible NASA Official: John Ira Petty | Updated: 07/21/2004
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