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Aquarius - an Analog to Space Travel

Transcript for June 19, 2003

>>Good afternoon, everyone out there in Worldwide Web Land.
My name is Sherri Jurls and we would like to welcome you to living in extreme environments.
I'm Jessica.
>> We're glad that all of you are joining us here this afternoon.
You've all heard of outer space, right?
Today we'll take you to inner space.
The very place we're going to visit is the Aquarius habitat.
You'll get to see how NASA astronauts and scientists are livingunder water to get ready for working in place.
>> Let's take a look at our first NEEMO mission.
We'll learn how NASA and Aquarius are teaming up to create this unique learning experience located off the Florida keys in the Gulf of Mexico and we are going to have a wonderful time today.
Want to remind everyone that you have the opportunity to submit your questions into the chatroom for the astronauts to answer.
Let's take a look at our first NEEMO mission.
>> The first NASA mission to live and work aboard an undersea habitat was completed in October of 2001.
The primary objectives of this mission to explore opportunities for using the Aquarius habitat as an analogue for space flight and long duration space ha*b habitation and look for the transfer of technologies.
Multiple directors at the Johnson Space Center worked together with the national undersea research center to accomplish this mission during the NASA extreme environment mission operations or NEEMO project.
Many science objectives were accomplished.
Such as techniques for operating in extreme environments, crew and Mission Controler interaction and leadership and interpersonal skills training.
Aquarius itself is the only undersea research laboratory in the world and owned by Noah and managed by the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.
It is located five miles off of key Largo in the Florida keys marine sanctuary.
It is is next to deep coerl reefs below the station.
It is below the service module measuring 45 feet long and 12 feet in diameter.
Like its outer space counterpart, Aquarius residents explore and live in a sometimes extreme, hostile environment.
They live in a saturated environment equivalent to a depth of 50 feet.
It gives them the ability to work ton reef outside the has habitat for a long period of time.
They must go through a decompression in the habitat before returning to the surface.
The first mission was completed in October 2001.
It lasted seven days and six nights with the crew returning to the surface on October 27th, 2001.
The crew for the mission included mission lead Bill Todd, astronaut Mike Lopez from the flight crew.
Astronaut Mike Earnhardt from the flight crew operations and astronaut Dave Williams.
All of the training for the mission was conducted at the national undersea research center over a period of six days.
The entire team stayed directly adjacent to the operations building at their crew quarters.
The training consisted of a fairly rigorous schedule of equipment briefings, swim tests, in-water diver training.
Science briefings and habitat visits.
During the actual mission, four NASA astronauts spent seven days living and working in a saturated environment and accomplished the mission objectives.
All activities were scheduled and completed per a timeline.
Linking audio and video communications with the Mission Control Center in Houston.
Performing credible space analogue science tasks for Noah research, performing a detailed test objective on an underwater communication systems for astronauts.
Performing science inside the habitat on lighting and human factors using a variety of scientific research instruments.
Holding five outreach events reaching millions of school kids on realtime vaidio and audio which highlighted the similarities of the extreme environments of inner and outer space.
Conducting a communication link up with the Space Station crew on orbit and finally documenting representative training and mission activities by video and still camera.
At mission completion, the overwhelming opinion by all participants was that this was an excellent analogue and is very applicable to the training and research that the Johnson Space Center performs.
The management and staff of the national undersea research center were extremely professional and did everything possible to make the NASA mission a success.
Their obvious commitment to safety was impressive.
They understand that our objectives are different than those of previous missions and went to tremendous lengths to facilitate our communication, science and technical needs.
The national undersea research center and the Aquarius habitat have proven to be an ideal match for the objective NASA brings to the project.
>> That was NEEMO on.
The mission we're on now is NEEMO 5.
>> We've come a long way with the science being accomplished on these missions.
We have a large amount of scientific experiments on this journey.
>> Aquarius, this is Houston, are you ready for the event?
>> Houston, it's Aquarius, we're ready to go.
>> Wonderful.
It's great to see you guys.
How is everyone down there today?
>> We're just fine.
It is good to see you guys, too, top side.
How is the weather up there?
>> Well, Jessica, you want to comment?
>> Typical Houston weather here.
>> Oh, yeah.
>> We're doing great down here.
>> Wonderful.
Why don't you guys introduce yourselves and the rest of your crew mates and give us a little bit of an overview of your mission and we'll start with all the questions that we have received.
>> Okay.
My name is Clayton Anderson and I'm here with Emma Hwang and we also would like to introduce our habitation technicians James and Ryan who keep us alive when we're down here.
This is Ryan and this is James.
>> Hi, Jessica.
>> Hi, James.
>> And the four aquanauts.
Everything is going well.
Our other crew mates, Peggy Whitson and Garrett Reisman are scuba diving.
They're doing a project which is similar to a space walk that we would do on the International Space Station and the space shuttle.
They hope to join us shortly in the window behind us.
We would like to do that if it's okay with you.
>> Clay, that would be wonderful.
Tell me the purpose just quickly of your current mission.
>> Well, what we're working on now is the NEEMO 5 mission is the longest -- one of the longest to date and we'll be down here for 14 days.
It's very similar analogous to space life.
However, this time we've got a lot of science on our plate and we're trying to do some scientific experiments that will help the folks on top side figure out other things to do in the future.
So Emma can give you a couple words on that.
>> Well, there are 12 experiments that we're going to be doing down here in the working days and some of them include -- both Clay and I are currently wearing Doppler belts which will monitor the possibility of gas bubbles in our blood.
We wear them after our dives for a couple hours so that's one of the projects that they would like to have for when they do space missions.
That's an important site study we're doing now.
There is also some more that we'll show you when we give you a tour.
There are some studies on reactivation which have to do with stress and high activity where if someone is an environment that is stressful, you might see some reactivation of viruses in other biological samples.
As well we're doing some studies on the auditory system.
We're trying to determine if pressure environments will possibly induce hearing damage and try to find out some -- what kind of equipment can be used to detect that early on.
Those are just a few of the studies that we're doing.
>> Emma that certainly is very fascinating.
You have a lot of science going on down there.
Now I do want you to share with me, I have heard there is a nickname floating around for you called the vampire.
Can you tell us what that's all about?
>> Sure.
Also in part of our studies we're actually in this particular NEEMO mission they are monitoring our food intake as well as our -- as well as what gets processed through our bodies so everything is being accounted for.
One of those ways of accounting for that is by drawing blood from all the crew members.
And getting those processed by laboratory technicians.
By the way, we are seeing our crew members in the window.
Crew member from Iowa, you can see Peggy Whitson here and Garrett Reisman.
>> Of course, they're kind of horsing around and they're supposed to be working.
>> It's so good to see the rest of your crew members.
>> They must be finished with their project.
>> They must be.
>> Okay.
Emma thanks for sharing that.
Or should we call you vampire?
Hi certainly to Garrett and Peggy out in the water working.
Hard at work.
And glad to see take you guys have fun with your jobs.
That's very important.
Well, we are getting all kinds of questions from students all over the United States as well as all over the world.
And we want to go ahead and start reading those questions to you guys and we'll just let you guys take turns answering them.
The first one is from a third grade student from Tommy in Miami, Florida.
You guys must have met him.
He is thrilled and said how fun it was meeting you on Sunday.
He wants to know what kind of sea creatures have you guys seen down there.
>> Let's see, we've seen everything from nurse sharks to lobsters to 200 pound grouper.
Some spotted eagle rays.
Those are the larger things that we've seen.
But there are lots of small fish and small creatures out there that change and seem to be different every day.
>> Wonderful.
It's fascinating.
Have you seen all of those so far on this trip or you just know to be expecting those at some point?
>> We've seen all of them and we've even seen some MORAY eels.
>> We have seen a sea turtle like the previous picture.
And there is the big Goliath grouper.
He weighs about 200 pounds according to James and Ryan.
He isn't even the biggest one that hangs out around the habitat.
>> There certainly is a wide variety of sea creatures down there.
Did you have a favorite, Jessica, when you were down?
>> I think two of my favorites were the nurse sharks and especially this big turtle we saw on one of our dives.
That was busy eating a sponge.
We were able to get really close and actually watch him eating for a while.
It was pretty interesting.
>> Okay.
One of the next questions we have received is from Abigail's dad.
The question is, what are the most important lessons that you've learned in Aquarius so far?
>> I think one of the key lessons is tolerance and patience.
We're in a very small containment down here, six people that have a kitchen and a bathroom and a dining table and a bedroom and it's all essentially the same place.
And in order to do the things you need to do in general you have to take care of yourself and prepare everything for yourself.
At the same time you have to stay out of the way of the other folks who are trying to do the same.
So it's a great study in communal living.
>> Clay and Emma you were telling us about all the sea creatures that you've seen down there.
Now, we have a pre-school student named Sutton that submitted the question.
Have you ever been bitten by any fish?
>> You can have that one.
>> I think today none of the crew members have actually been bitten by a fish yet.
>> And we hope that stays true for a while.
>> We try to be very--
>> We hope that for you, too.
>> We try to be very consider at of the sea life.
We try not to bother them.
We're observing and we hope they won't bite us in return.
>> Now, are you part of in a sanctuary, Emma?
>> Yes, we are.
We are in the Florida Keys National Sanctuary and that implies that it is protected by the federal government and it's patrolled by federal agents so there is no fishing allowed in the area.
And also around the Aquarius perimeter they try to limit the boat activity as well.
>> Great.
Thank you.
We have another question from a second grade student here in Texas.
His name is Cole.
He wants to know what is the neatest thing you've done since going to Aquarius?
>> I'll take that one if it's the Cole I'm thinking of.
The neatest thing I've done since I've been here is email with my son back and forth from the bottom side to top side and also with -- an activity that happened to me on father's day which is very much akin to space travel is I got some mail that came down to the habitat shortly after father's day that I got to read and enjoy while I was here.
>> Okay.
Well, SUE writes, is it scary at all for being under the water for such an extended period of time?
>> Well, our training that we were given by the national undersea research center has really given us a good confidence in being able to be comfortable with the environment we're in and the equipment that we're using.
So I think I speak pretty much for all of us that we're pretty comfortable down here and aren't really scared of the environment.
Although every now and then we see things like nurse sharks that we might get a little nervous about.
But we don't think that they'll hurt us.
>> Okay.
Well, we have a 7-year-old student named Ben.
He wants to know, is the Florida Keys in the ocean, and how deep are you?
>> The Florida Keys are essentially in the Caribbean sea which is between the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic ocean.
The spot where the Aquarius habitat is we're only under about 60 feet of water.
>> One more question here.
Clay, this one is for you.
How will you use this training to help you with a future space mission?
>> That's a great question and it's kind of a simple answer.
I've been able to hang down here with Peggy Whitson who is the science officer on the expedition 5 mission to the Space Station has been able to give us great insight all the way from the food selection and remind us for how we might select food when we go into space, to how to manage our personal effects and to how to stay on the timeline and make sure we have everything done that we need to execute in a day.
Her insight for her space mission has been extremely helpful to me and will allow me to make some personal preferences and choices when I finally do get to fly in space.
>> This is a fourth grade teacher at a school in Seattle.
Clay, I believe you and your wife Susan both have visited them and worked with them before doing educational events.
They're tuning in today and want me to share their greetings and say hello to you.
They're so proud of our astronauts, Clay.
And they say it's very exciting and they're tuning in watching you today.
>> Well, thank you.
I hail them and all the great work they do there.
I look forward to the next time I can come visit all my friends up there.
>> All right.
Well, we have another greeting from D.P. for Peggy and the entire crew.
The question is, what happens if something damages your surface BUOY.
How would you get your oxygen?
>> Well, the technicians here at the national undersea research center have planned all these contingencies of problems that can go on and we are confident of their ability to rush out here and fix the problem when those might occur.
However, nothing has occurred so far with our mission.
>> We do have contingency oxygen supplies that will allow us to get by until they can get out and take care of whatever problems they have.
It's interesting to note that from the center on shore they have a boat it only takes 17 minutes to get out to the BUOY in the event of an emergency.
>> We have another question from Nicole.
She wants to know what kind of food, everybody's favorite subject, is transported down to the Aquarius habitat and do you eat it?
Is it tasty?
>> Well, as I had mentioned a little earlier, we're doing a nutrition study so we're fortunate, for me it's a fortunate thing that we're getting food that was going to be used in the International Space Station.
So we get all kinds of things such as beef stew, which we just had this afternoon, to trail mix, to fruits and dried vegetables which you can rehydrate.
So that has been really exciting to kind of sample those foods.
And we do get a few other things that can be bought in bulk, which are also allowed on the station so as part of our science study, we're eating station-like food.
>> James, can you pass me a Snickers bar, please?
>> Do you have some favorite food?
We have samples of food that you eat when you were down there.
>> I was surprised by how good a lot of space food was.
I thought some of the breakfast items were pretty good.
I liked the granola with blueberries, I think it was.
>> Okay.
We have some more questions, Jessica, from students?
>> Sure.
One student would like to know, can you hear anything there from the outside when you're in the habitat?
>> That's a really cool question, too.
The things that we can hear at night when we go to sleep are very interesting.
They have some shrimp outside the habitat that tend to peck on the outside and they do that all night and it kind of sounds like rice crisp east in your bowl every morning and we get to sleep with that when we go to bed.
The other noises are kind of drowned out by the life support systems and the basic noises, the pressure changes, the gauges and all that kind of thing.
But once we climb into the bunk we get to be entertained by our friends, the shrimp.
>> Well, we have a wide variety of folks participating with us today.
There are a group of seniors at the Arizona retirement home in Scottsdale, Arizona who are part of the neighborhood network centers that are watching our program today and saying they're having a great time with it.
They want to know what you mean when you use the term top side.
>> Well, I guess topside usually we're referring to our support crew that is up on the surface just three miles away from us.
And they are helping us to keep track of what we're doing on the mission and as well as the topside on the national undersea research side and they are making sure that all of us down here are safe and are doing well.
>> Oh, and Sherri, did the Houston astro beat the Arizona Diamondbacks last night?
>> No, they did not, Clay.
>> Oh.
>> The spurs did win so that's a good thing.
Go, Texas, right?
Another question.
What is the toughest protocol that you've had to perform so far on this mission?
>> That's an easy answer for Clay.
We're doing a Doppler experiment that Emma mentioned earlier which means we have to wear some equipment that measures the amount of nitrogen bubbles in our bloodstream which is very akin to space walking astronauts and scuba divers.
It's a bad thing to do that.
We put on the Doppler experiment as we call it.
The only problem is it involves taping a probe to my bare chest.
Covering that up with a 4 by 6 piece of Band-Aid tape, and then the next -- four hours later we have to rip it off.
So that's by far my least favorite protocol that I go through on a -- it's not a daily basis.
But I think out of the 14 days we'll do it eight or nine times.
>> Emma, how about you?
>> Let's see.
Maybe one of the toughest things I've done while we've been down here is trying to work out some communication issues while in the water.
We have -- we have had the luxury of having these special masks that we can use underwater in order to communicate with each other as well as communicate with an office back in Houston, and that -- although that has been exciting to be able to talk to people, it's been a little challenging because of some equipment problems that I've been having.
So I would say that is probably one of the more challenging things for me so far.
>> That leads into our next question.
One student would like to know how are you communicating with us today at JFC?
Do you have an antenna?
>> With the magic of modern technology and computers and the Internet and all that sort of thing, we're able to talk to the folks on the mainland by way of the BUOY that's top side and its antennas that allow us to contact all the other stations.
So it's basically Internet technology with the help of a radio antenna on top of the BUOY.
They have hard phone lines, in the event of an emergency, we can call on the telephone.
>> Emma, I have this question that will be most appropriate for you, having the science background that you do.
But we have a student who is a first year med student.
17 years old, he would like to know if the brain works the same way underwater and in space.
>> That's a good question.
I can't say that I know the exact answer.
I know that some people, while diving at depths greater than 70 feet, and maybe even 60 feet can experience what is called nitrogen -- which is a phenomenon that some people akin to being drunk.
It could be depending on the person's physiology you could have maybe slower thought processes.
But on the most part at the depth that we're at, we don't think we're being affected.
And we think that we are thinking clearly.
I'm not sure about what happens in space.
>> I think the only thing that changes your brain waves -- go ahead, Sherri.
>> Go ahead, Clay.
>> The only thing that changes your brain waves in space is that you're on a compressed timeline and you're stressed to get a lot of things accomplished.
For those of us working with less brain cells than others it will be a tough time.
>> Okay.
Well, I'm going to ask at this time if you guys wouldn't mind taking all of us out here in Worldwide Web Land on a tour of your habitat.
I'll remind everyone out there participating today we have about 30 minutes remaining in our program and we want to encourage you to submit any last-minute questions or questions that you want to have answered by the aquanauts.
Are you guys ready?
>> We have to take a couple seconds to detach the camera from your habitat.
Just use that one, Emma, will be easiest and we'll take you on a little tour.
We'll start in the bunk area first.
Can you guys still hear us, Sherri?
>> We're having a difficult time hearing you.
>> How is that?
>> That's much better.
>> Okay.
Emma has got the camera in her hand and Clay is standing in the middle of the bunk room.
If you can get a look there is six bunks.
Three stacked on top of each other, very similar on how you might live in a submarine under the ocean.
Nobody snores that we know of.
We have a view port here that allows us to see fish out the window.
This is the view port we used the first time we saw the nurse sharks come by to visit.
Now as Emma backs up, we've got -- as she pans into the bunk you'll see as part of the science object we have things hanging all over our bunks and make sure we do saliva samples and document the time we take the sample.
Now we're moving into the main block.
I'll scoot ahead of Emma and you kind of get -- this is where everybody pretty much hangs out.
Ryan is sitting at the dinner table and James is over here.
Looks like he's preparing something to eat.
Excellent choice.
We store a lot of stuff above and on the sides.
On this side is where James and Ryan do work with the environmental control systems.
You'll see the switches and gauges and panels and things and that what is what keeps the habitat alive.
You'll see very similar when we want into the entry lock you'll see the same type of switches.
It shows the redundancy between the two locks.
You'll notice that there are computers, especially in the entry lock.
And this is the area they've designated for us to do all our science experiments.
We have three computers, telephones, a lot of experimental gear stowed away.
We pull it out when we need it but we have to be neat and tidy and keep everything orderly.
This is Emma's favorite place.
She's the science officer.
She loves to hang out here with her computer.
Stick us with needles and all sorts of cool stuff.
The last place we're going to go is the west porch.
When we go out where it's humid and west.
The odds are that the screen is going to fog up for a minute.
So real quickly we'll let you take a peek and then we'll come back into the air conditioning.
Does that sound all right?
>> That sounds great, Clay.
>> This is the wet porch.
This is where we go to put on our scuba gear.
We have a couple of windows and it's very wet and humid out here and we can't keep the door open very long because we let too much air and humidity in.
That's pretty much the wet porch.
We also have a shower out there that we can use once we finish our scuba dive.
So as we come back in, you'll see that it doesn't take very long to do a walking tour of the module that is this small.
And that's pretty much home for the next 14 days.
And what we can do is zoom out the window a little bit and see if we can see any fish.It's kind of hard.
We have three main windows in the habitat.
The one in the bunk room, the one in the main dining area here, and one on the view porch.
It might be interesting for folks out there to know how we cook our food.
And that is the modern technology of the microwave.
So we live pretty much just like everybody does down there.
Another thing that we do is any time we eat something, since this is a space mission, we have to pull it out, and we have to scan it so we know exactly what we're eating and how much water, how much food we've consumed because all the scientists on the ground are itchy to know what we're eating, how much and how it affects us.
As Emma mentioned before, all the menu we have for this mission is the remains of a Space Station crew member and his menu choices that we couldn't use because of the fact we're now only sending two astronauts and cosmonauts to the Space Station at a time.
Let's see, Emma, why don't you turn around and we'll look at some of the technical stuff that Ryan and James play with.
We're not allowed to touch any of these panels.
If we do James and Ryan pretty much smash us on the head and shoulders with scuba tanks.
And since we don't like that we don't mess with what they've got.
You can see that you have things from electrical powers to the environmental control system and air pressurization.
All those types of gauges and things that Ryan and James monitor for us to make sure that the habitat is indeed in a safe configuration.
This is really, really similar to the International Space Station except important the fact that the Space Station is run essentially by computer.
Hopefully maybe someday when we get some -- an enhanced Aquarius, perhaps it will be run by computers in the same way the International Space Station is.
Today this is pretty good technology.
Similar to what the Russians would have in terms of instead of using the computer, they like to use standard gauges, dials and switches to perform the same functions that the United States uses a computer to perform on the International Space Station.
Would you like to hear more?
>> Well, I tell you what, Clay, you guys are breaking an all-time record for the number of participants wanting to ask questions on our NASA WebCast.
So if you don't mind, we're going to see how many more of those we can try to answer in the time that you have left.
Because I know you are very busy down there with all of your science experiments.
You were speaking about food and preparation and how you cook it and everything.
One of the questions that has come into the chatroom is, I understand that the taste of food tends to fade during prolonged periods of exposure to underwater pressure.
Have you experienced this?
And why does that happen?
>> I don't know that I've experienced it exactly.
One thing we do know down here in the habitat since it's a closed environment.
Any smells or fragrances that we have are readily apparent to the crew.
And that's very important because of the fact that if one of those smells happens to be smoke, it gives the habitat technicians a great cue that we may have a problem.
It's also very similar to the International Space Station and the space shuttle.
Your nose is a very sensitive instrument and allows us to detect things that are off -- not normal.
I'm not really sure since I haven't yet flown in space, I'm not sure how this will be for me personally, but I would imagine it would be very similar.
>> We have a question from a student who would like to know, was it hard to learn how to scuba dive?
>> From my experience -- sorry, stand by.
We're having a little interference.
Personally, I don't think scuba diving was very difficult to learn because of my interest in the ocean and being underwater.
So I would encourage anybody who is interested in ocean life to try to start diving.
It's very -- it's a wonderful world to be down here and to be able to swim with the fish and to be able to look closely at all the other undersea life without having to worry about drowning because you are on -- you are living on air, basically when you're doing scuba.
So I don't think it was very hard at all especially if you've got that interest.
>> We have someone else writing in to say hi to Clayton.
He says I had the opportunity to meet your wife in Houston in February.
The question is, have you noticed any physical anomalies while being in a saturation-type situation in the Aquarius habitat?
I guess that would go for any of you.
>> One of the experiments we have is the wound DTO or test objective where we look for injuries and we're trying to photograph those for the doctors that are top side.
A lot of times in an environment like this you have skin irritations that if not taken care of can be -- can become problems.
We watch really carefully for our skin and we watch very carefully for our ears.
>> Can you tell us a little bit about how you trained for this mission?
>> We took four days in April and came down -- we came down to Florida to essentially do a scuba dive test to make sure that our skills were adequate for the additional training.
We returned a week before we saturated and we got very strict scuba training from some excellent instructors from the national undersea research center.
That was extreme diving.
We dove twice a day every day Monday through Saturday and they wanted to make sure that we had the skills and we learned the equipment well enough to be able to saturate for 14 days.
Because once we come down here, even with James and Ryan in the habitat, there are certain situations and times when there is no one that can help us except ourselves and our equipment and our knowledge of the equipment.
So it was very extreme training.
It was great training.
They did a super job and we had a lot of fun.
>> We've got a first grade student from -- named RIGGS from Iowa.
He's D.P.'s great grandson and loved meeting you in April.
The question is, what's the biggest fish any of you have seen so far while you've been down there?
>> Probably the largest fish we've seen is the Goliath grouper that was referred to earlier.
He's one very large fish and seems to hover effortlessly through the water.
They seem to like to stay under the habitat so we get the opportunity to see them after coming back from dives usually.
>> He's about as big as Emma.
>> I think he's bigger than I am, actually.
>> What do you do in your spare time in Aquarius?
>> So far we haven't had a lot of spare time.
But when we do get some it's a great opportunity to catch up on our data management.
We want to make sure we provide all the information up to the scientists so they can use it as quickly as possible.
We also spend a lot of time trying to send email to our friends and family on the surface.
We write journals occasionally each one takes a different day to write a journal entry that goes to the web.
Also we have a lot of fun chatting with each other.
We brought a deck of cards.
We haven't had time to break it out yet.
In addition to that, we do have some DVD's and CD's along with those players so that we can enjoy some music and hopefully we'll watch a movie this weekend and, of course, the titles of the movies would be very appropriately called, "the ABYSS."
We did not bring jaws.
That was a bit too much for us to deal with.
We're looking forward to having a little more spare time once we get the routine under our belts.
>> Clay, I'll tell you, there was another question -- identical question from BRYCE.
He says hi, uncle Clay.
I wanted to let you know he was watching today.
Jeff is a chemistry teacher in Hamilton, Texas and he said unfortunately they're out of school at this time but his children, his students, wanted him to ask on their behalf several questions.
Steven and J.C. and Casey all had questions.
They want to know what does it look like under water?
>> I think we -- it looks really blue.
Everything is kind of blue, aqua green.
Some days you have really great visibility.
And when we have great visibility we can see as far as 50 feet away, which is really excellent.
But some days the visibility can go down to less than ten feet, which is a little tougher.
Go ahead, Emma.
>> We see a lot of fascinating colors because of the fish life and the coral that's around here so that's really great to see as well.
It's hard to take a photograph of the colors down here, though, because -- just because of the amount of light that actually gets through the water is not sufficient to take very good image of the lives in the water.
>> How long can you stay outside in the water and how does it compare to doing a space walk?
>> We started out slowly on our first couple of dives and we stayed out on the dive for approximately two hours.
Since then we've increased to three.
Today we actually did a four-hour dive as we tried to construct our underwater space habitat.
In addition to that, comparing it to a space walk, that will typically be six hours outside of the Space Station, space shuttle.
That doesn't count the time that we prepare.
In each case, both scuba diving and space walk you have to prepare beforehand by pulling up your equipment, making sure everything is functional.
For us in the scuba world it takes about 20 minutes.
For a space walk it takes more like an hour to an hour and a half essentially because we have to pre-breathe before going outside.
The analogy is great.
Having the same type of equipment in scuba that will keep you alive under water we have the space suit that keeps us alive in outer space.
>> Emma and Clay, we do want to let you know in the last few minutes we have been getting some intermittent blue screen.
Just in case a cable is loose or something there you guys might want to check on that.
Mary Beth is from Texas and Mary Beth has two sons.
Says hello to you, Clay, an old friend.
And the boys want to know what it's like to be isolated from everyday life.
Do you get on each other's nerves?
Is it like having brothers and sisters?
>> First of all, hello to Mary Beth and her family.
It's great to be able to participate today.
We've only been down here four days.
We have a little over a week and a half to go.
But the group that I'm down here with, we're very compatible.
Everybody seems to have a great sense of humor, and everybody is very focused on executing the objectives of the mission and having a good time.
So I guess you could say that it's probably a little like having a brother or sister when you have the sleep in the same bed when you were little, although we're not in the same beds we're very close quarters and we have to be very tolerant of each other.
>> The next question is how you get into the habitat without getting water inside.
>> We come into the habitat in a place called the wet porch.
The way it works, the habitat is a long cylinder with a big hole in one end.
The hole is at the bottom.
So when you pressurize the inside of the habitat with air it pushes everything outside, including all the water.
So we hold the pressure -- are you guys hearing us okay?
We hold the pressure high enough to keep the water forced out on the wet porch.
So it's like entering a small little swimming pool right below the floor.
Now, if the pressure left the habitat then the water would come in and take its place.
>> A huge school of fish going by our window now.
>> Go ahead, Sherri, do you guys have another question?
>> I was just wondering how frequently do you see sea life passing by your port hole there?
>> I would say it's fairly constant.
We're amazed at how much we can see from this port window and it really is great to be able to view all this life going by and living around us while we're in here working.
>> We had a question come in for Peggy.
Of course, we know Peggy is actually out in the water.
So hopefully you guys can answer on her behalf.
But being the NEEMO 5 crew member that lived aboard the I.S.S., Peggy will make the habitability assessment.
What do you think her first assessments of the similarities and differences between Aquarius and the Space Station?
I know it maybe a little difficult but I know that you work very closely with her.
She may have shared some of those insights with you.
>> Yes, she already has shared some things with us.
For example, she recommends that as we go through the food that we eat here, that we mark down our favorite choices so that we can remember what those might be when we get the opportunity to fly into space.
We don't want to forget that everything isn't everyone's favorite but we like the blue berry apple cobbler.
She's been good at pointing out ways to stay on our timeline and to make sure we get ahead.
We have taken steps to do our briefings the night before we have an activity so we understand what we'll do so we don't have to spend that time in the morning.
She's done a really great job with teaching us how to maintain our timeline and not get behind schedule.
>> Is it cold for you while you're diving in the water?
Do your suits have any sort of temperature control mechanisms?
>> The scuba equipment is essentially a wet suit with a dive skin underneath.
The only way we can control our temperature in the water is to remove clothing or put more clothing on.
So we don't have any kind of temperature control mechanism that is similar to a space suit.
Fortunately for us during the month of June it seems to be pretty warm in the water and none of us have really gotten very cold even though we've been out on a four-hour dive now.
In a few days we'll tackle a six-hour dive and that will be really the first time that we'll understand whether or not we can tolerate the cold temperatures in the water for up to six hours.
We're looking forward to that, though, and we hope we can make it the entire six without getting too cold.
>> Well, Jake wants to know how are you selected to become an Aquarius member?
>> There are different means of being selected.
The astronauts that are on this crew were selected by their supervisors and the people above them.
As a science officer on this crew there was actually an application process that was -- there was a committee at Johnson Space Center that actually looked through many applications and also conducted interviews.
And looked at not only at the person's background but also they looked at how much other dive experience they already had.
There was a 25 -- the person had to initially qualify by having 25 or more dives.
The national undersea research center often requires more dives.
>> Clay got in on good looks and personality.
>> Has Peggy mentioned to you which one she prefers, space or living under water?
>> I don't know that we posed that question to her directly.
But I know when we asked her about her trip to the International Space Station she said she didn't want to come home and she's roaring to go back.
And I think if she compares it to her time here on Aquarius I think she's really enjoying it quite a bit.
As you could have seen from if you were close enough to look out the window when she and Garrett floated up, they had extremely big smiles on their faces and we're having just a great time getting to know each other, becoming friends and becoming crew mates.
And dealing with all the activities that we have going on down here.
It is kind of like going on a camping trip with some people that you know but he really don't know them that way.
The more time we spend together the more we get to know each other and the more fun we have.
>> Well, we want to remind everybody out there that we have roughly five minutes left in our program.
And having a wonderful time, a very special time with the crew members of the NEEMO 5 mission in Aquarius habitat off the Florida Keys any last-minute questions that you may have submit them now and we'll do our best to get the answers.
Another question for Garrett, because the -- Garrett went to high school and college with the questioner's father.
He says hi.
I think you guys can answer this question.
How easily can you sleep when you're in the Aquarius habitat?
Are there a lot of noises, are the lights on all the time?
>> Actually, it's not difficult to sleep because of the many activities that we have lined up in our schedule.
So, in fact, by the time it's time lined for us to go to sleep, we are pretty exhausted and I think all of us have been sleeping quite well throughout the night.
>> How do you get down to Aquarius and back up again?
>> The folks at the national undersea research center bring us out by boat.
We put on our scuba equipment and we're parked above the Aquarius and dive down to the habitat.
When we leave it will be slightly different in that we have to decompress for about 17 hours within the habitat itself before we'll repressurize the habitat and we'll rocket up to the surface, hop on the boat and head back to the main land.
>> This is a question from San Jose, California.
How deep can the Aquarius habitat be submerged?
>> That's a good question that maybe Ryan or James might be able to answer for us.
This facility actually used to be in a different location ten years ago, at least.
>> It was originally designed to be used off the Florida coast out by Catalina Island.
It was designed to go to about 120 feet and operate in much colder water.
But it never got used for that purpose and it ended up being used first in St. Croix in the U.S. virgin islands and got moved off this coast and it's been here for about ten years or so.
>> So Clay, is the humidity down in Aquarius worse under water or in Houston?
>> I think you know the answer.
It's on the web porch it's pretty much a good Houston day although not quite as hot.
But inside the habitat the humidity is around 50% and the temperature we try to keep it around 75 to 77 degrees.
So I like it inside the habitat better than I like it outside in Houston.
>> I agree.
>> I wish I could say that I agree and having had the experience.
Okay, Josh wants to know what happens if you get sick while you're down there?
>> Oh, well, if we get sick Ryan and James have some medical supplies that they can take care of us with.
Also Peggy and Emma can help us out a little bit depending on how severe or what the problem is.
But in the event that it's a serious illness, we have emergency evacuation procedures that we would have to deal with and James and Ryan would take control and make sure that everything was okay and we'd be whisked to the surface back to the mainland via boat or on to the hospital or decompression chamber, as it were.
>> All right.
The Bethel housing neighborhood network from Tennessee wishes to thank you for all of the wonderful information that you're sharing.
They are enjoying the program today as well.
Boy, we have folks from all over and we're just so glad that all of you are taking this opportunity to talk with our astronauts and aquanauts under the water in Aquarius habitat.
I think we have time for one last quick question.
What is the square footage of the habitat?
I know the tour was very brief.
>> That again might be a question for our knowledgeable habitat officers.
We do know that the length of the facility is 43 feet.
So the diameter I believe is 17 feet.
9 foot diameter, I'm sorry.
So I think a lot of the students listening might be able to do the math on that.
>> All right.
Well, we are unfortunately out of time.
We would like for you to give us one last so long goodbye, it's been a joy.
Thank you on behalf of distance learning, Aquarius.
Thank you everyone for participating in our program today.
Take care.
>> Bye.
We're a long way from caribou, Maine.
Thanks a lot.
>> We can leave you with a little footage of some of our underwater activities.
>> All right.


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