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Neutral Buoyancy Lab
TechRepublic visited the Neutral Buoyancy Lab at the Johnson Space Center where astronauts train for spacewalks.
This giant pool is an important piece of training for astronauts who will be completing extra vehicular activities (EVAs), or spacewalks. The pool prepares them for working in a (mostly) weightless environment, as neutral buoyancy refers to the equal tendency to float or sink.
It's a big pool
The pool is about 100 x 200 x 40 ft and hold about 7 million gallons of water.
The International Space Station
The pool has mock ups of parts of the International Space Station so that astronauts can practice their EVAs.
Everybody in the pool
Each astronaut in the pool is accompanied by 4 divers. Since EVAs can take hours, those divers take shifts.
NBL has its own lifeguard chair. It is a pool, after all.
Boogie board, anyone?
NBL’s small collection of pool toys.
An arm out of water
Here’s the mockup of the robotic arm, and a camera, in a rare moment out of the pool.
Minions or oxygen tanks?
NBL goes through a lot of oxygen tanks during training.
NBL’s also not short on its stock of diving gear.
Art imitating training
In a few spots around the lab, you’ll run into paintings depicting scenes from the pool.
Outside of the pool
Training for spacewalks includes not just those who will be outside the International Space Station, but the crew monitoring and the crew operating the robotic arm. The pool has its own control room, shown here.
Keep it cool
On display is the liquid cooling and ventilation garment worn underneath spacesuits. In total, it takes about 20 minutes to put on a spacesuit.