CNET también está disponible en español.

Ir a español

Don't show this again

HolidayBuyer's Guide

ISS at 40 feet

Astronaut pants

All the camera views

Scott Kelly gloves and helmet

Orion mock-up

Kelly's under-suit

Trainer underwater

Camelbak mouthpiece

Putting on the pants

Upsy-daisy

Connecting the boot

Climbing into the suit

Scott Kelly

Moment of rest

Strapping on headset

Helmet on

Astronaut

Tools

Hoisting out over the pool

Down he goes

Saluting

Just below the surface

Monitoring in the main control room

On the screen

Another view

NBL front door

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.

Please click here for my full story on the Neutral Buoyancy Lab.

Caption by / Photo by Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Most weekdays, NASA puts two of its astronauts through training sessions at the NBL, where they'll spend six hours underwater, each working with rotating teams of safety-, camera-, and support-divers.

Before the astronauts come out to suit up, though, support teams lay out their suits in preparation.

Caption by / Photo by Daniel Terdiman/CNET

In a control room above the NBL pool, technicians monitor up to 21 different camera views of the astronauts' work on the ISS mock-up from in and around the pool.

Caption by / Photo by Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Mark and Scott Kelly are part of a NASA experiment to see how space affects both members of a set of twins.

When CNET visited, Scott Kelly was slated to be working in the NBL pool. Here, his gloves and helmet are seen laid out and awaiting his arrival to suit up.

Caption by / Photo by Daniel Terdiman/CNET

A mock-up of NASA's Orion capsule -- which is the space agency's next manned aircraft -- at the NBL.

Caption by / Photo by Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Inside the main space suit, the astronauts wear a thinner outfit that has integrated components for connecting with the systems built into the space suit.

Caption by / Photo by Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Part of the ISS mock-up, seen under the water at the NBL.

Caption by / Photo by Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Inside his space suit, Scott Kelly had a Camelbak from which he could drink water. The mouthpiece is seen here sticking up from inside prior to his putting the suit on.

Caption by / Photo by Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Astronauts need a little help putting on their space suits.

Caption by / Photo by Daniel Terdiman/CNET

NBL technicians help Scott Kelly stand up after he's begun to put on the space suit pants.

Caption by / Photo by Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Kelly locks his boot into place.

Caption by / Photo by Daniel Terdiman/CNET

With the help of a couple of NBL technicians, Kelly climbs up into the main part of the space suit.

Caption by / Photo by Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Astronaut Scott Kelly, who along with his brother Mark Kelly, is part of a team that will help NASA study the effects of space on both members of a set of twins.

Caption by / Photo by Daniel Terdiman/CNET

After getting into the space suit, Scott Kelly rests for a moment before putting on his helmet.

Caption by / Photo by Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Kelly straps on his headset, which will allow him to communicate with the control room and his support divers.

Caption by / Photo by Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Kelly now has on his helmet. It's almost time to be lowered into the water for his six-hour NBL session.

Caption by / Photo by Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Kelly readies himself for his NBL work.

Caption by / Photo by Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Strapped to the front of his suit, Kelly also has a set of various tools he'll use to work on the ISS mock-up.

Caption by / Photo by Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Kelly had been standing on a platform, and now that platform is being hoisted off the side of the pool and will be slowly lowered into the water.

Caption by / Photo by Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Kelly begins to be submerged.

Caption by / Photo by Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Kelly salutes as he goes under.

Caption by / Photo by Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Kelly gets his first look of the day at the underwater environment.

Caption by / Photo by Daniel Terdiman/CNET

NBL technicians in the main control room watch the work taking place on the underwater ISS mock-up.

Caption by / Photo by Daniel Terdiman/CNET

A monitor in the main control room shows a camera view of the underwater work taking place at the NBL.

Caption by / Photo by Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Another view of what's happening 40 feet below the surface of the NBL pool.

Caption by / Photo by Daniel Terdiman/CNET

The front door of NASA's neutral buoyancy lab.

Caption by / Photo by Daniel Terdiman/CNET
Published: