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Countdown to Splash Down

Dawn Kernagis // July 17, 2016

Training week is a wrap!

The crew spent Training Days 5 and 6 immersed (literally and figuratively) in learning more about the science objectives and related procedures for the mission. On Thursday, we headed out to a dive site known as ‘Hens and Chickens’ with several of the FIU marine science researchers. For the first dive, we learned how to identify the 4 coral species will be sampling for the marine science team during our extravehicular activity (EVA) excursions: Orbicella faveolata, Orbicella annularis, Agaricia agaricites, and Agaricia humilis. Our instructors taught us the distinct features of each coral, then they quizzed each of us throughout the remainder of the dive. They even threw in a few trick identifications to keep us on our toes! We also learned how to place temporary tags and photograph the coral – information that will go back to the science team so they can decide which coral we should sample.

Reid Wiseman and Dawn Kernagis learning to identify coral with FIU’s Dan Merselis

For the second and third dives, we got our hands on the different tools we will be using during our EVA excursions. We practiced building a coral tree underwater, using the Pulse Amplitude Modulated (PAM) fluorometer to assess photosynthetic efficiency of each coral species, sampling and preserving coral specimens, and using the tool sled for carrying our research equipments throughout our EVAs. We also got hands-on time with the Shark Marine underwater navigator that we will use to travel efficiently throughout our simulated spacewalks – it is an impressive piece of equipment that will be much-needed throughout the mission. The dry training that we had on all of this equipment prior to hopping in the water to try it out made our training day very productive!

Setting up the tool sled that will be used during EVA excursions to carry the necessary research equipment

Setting up the tool sled that will be used during EVA excursions to carry the necessary research equipment

Friday was the final training day! We went through a brief review of additional science objectives, software, and hardware followed by an EVA ‘walk-through’. For this simulation, we had our intravehicular activity (IV) console set up in our training room, and the crew members talked through the communication, data capture, and operational procedures for one of the planned EVAs. Piecing together all of the training, equipment, and hands-on experience we had collected up to that point was incredibly useful and went well – plus it left us ready to get into the water and start the mission! It also spoke volumes with respect to the high quality training, preparation, and planning from the NEEMO staff and support team, which the entire crew has noted and undoubtedly appreciates.

On Monday morning, July 18th, the first crew (Reid Wiseman (NASA), Megan Behnken (NASA), Matthias Maurer (ESA), and Marc O Griofa (Teloregen/VEGA/AirDocs), and FIU Habitat Technicians Hank Stark and Sean Moore) will splash down to start their 8 day mission in the Aquarius habitat.  Noel Dutoit (Naval Postgraduate School) and I (Dawn Kernagis, IHMC) will be working on our research objectives and supporting the team in any way we can for the first week before splashing down on July 26th, replacing Wiseman and O Griofa as they splash up. We are all chomping at the bit to formally kick off NEEMO 21!

For NEEMO 21 Mission updates, follow


NEEMO 21 Saturation Crew: Bottom row: Wiseman, Behnken, O Griofa, Stark, Moore; Top row: Dutoit, Maurer, Kernagis