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NEEMO: | Home | Facilities | Teams | History | Journals | EVAs
Behind the ScenesBehind the ScenesTrainingNEEMOBehind the ScenesTrainingNEEMOTrainingNeutral Buoyancy Lab
IMAGE:  NEEMO 7 crewmembers prepare for a dive
NEEMO 7 crewmembers wave as they prepare for a training dive off the Florida Keys.
*NEEMO 7 Journals
*Aquanaut Profile: Mike Barratt

NEEMO 7 Journals

NEEMO 7, Mike Barratt
Day 1, Monday, October 4, 2004

We survived the first day of real training more or less unscathed. We had a brief introduction with the NURC staff, and got a feeling for how many people and how much work it takes to put a mission like ours together. This was followed by a swim test run by a very experienced dive master known as “Otter.” Expect to hear more about this salty dog. I’m not sure if he has a real name, but he is sharp about diving and the sea, and seems way too comfortable in the water. No “gimme’s”; we are known as “aquanaut candidates” until he is satisfied. Actually this makes it that much more gratifying when you get something right and he gives you a thumbs up.

After getting checked out on the twin tanks and manifold system we will be using for dives from the habitat, we hopped aboard the vessel, Research Diver, and headed offshore to Conch Reef in the area of the Aquarius habitat. Since we are training in the same gear we plan to use for our dives from the habitat, we were in dive skins and full wet suits; making a real exercise in heat stress sitting on a boat in the full Florida sun, getting the rest of your gear together and awaiting your turn.

IMAGE: NEEMO 7 Mission Specialist Mike Barratt
NEEMO 7 Mission Specialist Mike Barratt.

What a relief to get in the water! It is great to dive below the chop and slop of the surface waves and drop toward the reef. We did a few drills sitting on the bottom, making sure we could reach our valves and regulators, clear our mask, buddy breathe, and manage our buoyancy.

Diving in saturation basically means we remain at a depth where our bodies become saturated with nitrogen to the point that we cannot come to the surface without a long period of time at intermediate pressures to gradually breathe out the excess nitrogen. This avoids decompression sickness, or "the bends." For our NEEMO mission, where our habitat is about 45 feet deep, we remain at depth and save our decompression until the end of the 11 days, so we only pay once. But it means we live in a virtual box constrained by depth; we cannot go deeper than 95 or shallower than 40 feet. As such, buoyancy control is really important to us, to avoid rising to the surface or sinking below our limit. This is one of the practices we must nail down during these training dives from the surface and follow cold, no exceptions.

After the dive, we spent the remainder of the day doing medical training with Dr. Anvari and our own crewmember, Dr. McKinley. The focus of our mission is telemedicine and telerobotics, and one of the things we are learning is to perform a gall bladder removal through endoscopes following the guidance of a surgeon (Dr. Anvari) over a broadband internet connection. Just like the mission, it's all about shifting gears. The variety, of course, is part of what makes the job fun and interesting; there's no such thing as a routine day.

Curator: Kim Dismukes | Responsible NASA Official: John Ira Petty | Updated: 10/29/2004
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