This morning at 7:00am, we went to Hangar 990 and prepared our experiment for the Test Readiness Results (TRR). This test is crucial and will determine if we will be able to fly or not. After figuring out what went wrong with the cryocooler, we presented the project to the engineers and several microgravity official who then critique us on what needs to be explained or fixed. After this was done, I went with three other to the flyers chamber flight test at the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL) at 12:45pm. When we arrived at the laboratory, we checked in as a visitor at the front desk and went to the meeting room. After waiting for several minutes two NASA lecturer helped us with checking out the breathing device and head gears that will be used later in the simulation flight test. The gears used had three key pieces, first a head cover with two large ear phone are fitted to us, second a device called a bayonet is fitted to our mouth and nose (this will allow us to breath in 100% oxygen during the simulation test), and third a device called a CRU is used to allow oxygen to traveled from the oxygen supply to the bayonet.
After the equipments are checked out and fitted on us, we listened to one of the official talked about the oxygen equipments and the safety when using these equipments. Once completed, we took a break and several people went to see the doctor to make sure they would be allowed to complete the simulation test (I unfortunately was one of those people). When the doctor was done visiting us about our health problems, we went back to the meeting room and from there walked to the flight simulation chamber.
Once everyone was inside the chamber, we all listened to the instruction on how to connect the oxygen equipment with the regulators and oxygen supply. When done, we had a pretest on what it felt like to breath at a very high altitude using the back-up regulator in case the primary regulator fails. This pretest was quite interesting and I found that it was indeed very hard to breath and speak at 45,000 ft, because of all the pressure pushing against my mouth and nose.
Having completed the pretest, we waited until the actual simulation begins. Around the chamber there were several other NASA people who monitored the test. Inside the chamber, three other NASA program coordinator monitor us in case of something severe were to happen during the test. Four cameras were used to monitor our reaction during hypoxia along with an outside camera video taping our every movement and reaction. When the simulation started, we first climbed slowly to several thousand altitude, once we hit past 10,000 ft my ears started to pop a lot more than usual. At the highest altitude of 15,000 ft, the odd numbered seat were to take off there oxygen mask and turn off there oxygen supply. Once done, everyone that took the mask off had to do a little quiz to see if they have any reaction toward hypoxia. When the odd seats are done, the even numbered seat turn was up next. Once the head set was off I started to complete my quiz, but after 4 minutes I experienced several sign of hypoxia because of the lack of oxygen. Some of the symptoms that I felt include my hands were a little cold and shaking , I had a slower reaction time, and couldn’t remember much of what I did at that high of an altitude.
When the simulation was completed, everyone put on their mask and turned on their oxygen so that the chamber will be pressured down to normal condition for us. When we went down, several people had problem with their ear and the coordinator and operator handled those very professionally.
Finally, after we got out of the simulation test, we got an interesting tour of the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory. When the tour was over, we went back to the hotel and waited to go to dinner.