Most astronauts headed to the International Space Station practice their missions in NASA's Neutral Buoyancy Lab. CNET Road Trip 2014 got poolside to see how it's done.
ISS at 40 feet
HOUSTON -- If you're NASA, how do you train astronauts headed for the International Space Station to work on their assigned tasks in a way that suitably mimics the ISS' zero-gravity environment?
The ingenious answer is with a large-scale model of the ISS 40 feet under the surface of a giant pool.
At the Neutral Buoyancy Lab here, associated with, but a 20 minutes drive from, the Johnson Space Center, that's exactly what NASA does -- bringing in each astronaut with ISS missions coming up and giving them regular underwater sessions during which they can practice many of the steps they'll eventually be performing in space.
As part of CNET Road Trip 2014, I visited the NBL and saw up close how this works, as well as how incredible an ISS mock-up looks underwater.