Inside the grueling preparation of astronauts for a two-week space expedition in an underwater chamber in simulations
ASTRONAUTS must spend weeks underwater learning to go out in space as part of their preparation for grueling expeditions.
More than 300 astronauts have trained at NASA’s famed Johnson Space Center in Houston since the first was selected in 1959.
According to NASA, budding astronauts must undergo two years of intensive training before they can even begin to think about starting specialized mission training.
Applicants tend to have college degrees or military experience before training to become an astronaut.
Neil Armstrong served in the Navy in the 1950s before earning an aeronautical engineering degree from Purdue University.
While Alan Shepard, who became the second person to travel in space, graduated from the US Naval Academy before his career at NASA.
The Sun examines how astronauts are tested before embarking on a space expedition.
NEUTRAL BUOYANCY LABORATORY
NASA candidates train underwater in a neutral buoyancy lab designed to simulate weightlessness.
The Neutral Buoyancy Lab was named in honor of Manley L “Sonny” Carter Jr, who died in an aviation accident.
But astronauts don’t really feel weightlessness when their spacesuits drag them down, NASA reveals.
This makes tasks more difficult to perform than if they were undertaken in a weightless experience.
The purpose of the NBL is to help astronauts train for spacewalks. This is when astronauts step out of a vehicle while in space.
Spacewalks can last between five and eight hours.
Astronauts spend 10 hours underwater for every hour they walk in space. Applicants are encouraged to make the experience as realistic as possible in their own mind.
Candidates spend up to 300 hours in simulators as facilities try to make the experience as realistic as possible in space conditions.
NASA’s Space Vehicle Mockup Facility contains full-size shuttle flight decks and a complete shuttle mockup.
This allows the astronauts to familiarize themselves with the layout of the shuttle.
The open space, which covers approximately 42,000 square meters, contains a 1/6and gravity simulator and Mars Rover test vehicles.
Meanwhile, astronaut pilots are trained in Gulfstream aircraft, designed to create an experience similar to what they are likely to encounter when piloting a space shuttle.
The approach to a spacecraft runway is almost seven times steeper than that of an airplane on which millions of Americans travel each day.
Astronauts learn flight controls while training inside a T-38 aircraft.
The T-38 is a twin-engine aircraft commonly used by the US Navy and Air Force.
NASA has a flight of more than 30 planes, and the space agency spends up to $30 million every year to fly and maintain the jets.
It is likely that simulations will need to expand as space missions become more complex in the coming decades.
PRECISION AIR FLOOR
Astronauts must know how to move objects in space.
Objects have air force through them, making them easier to move.
The Precision Air-Bearing Floor is a large metal floor and has been compared online to a large hockey table.
Astronauts should not only learn science and engineering; they must also take language courses.
This particularly applies to those aspiring to work aboard the ISS where they will need to talk to their Russian counterparts.
Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques said Russian was “taken seriously”.
He told Universe Today: “It’s taken very seriously in the program because of the level you have to reach if, God forbid, there was an emergency on board and there was a panicked discussion in Russian on the radio.
“At the end of the day, you need to be fluent to be really helpful in a situation like this.”
Saint-Jacques revealed that the goal of language learning is to “communicate” rather than to write fluently.
Astronauts also take courses in public speaking as they are expected to give speeches.
Colonel Chris Hadfield has warned that astronauts must have a “cool head” and forget what they see in the movies, Masterclass has revealed.
Hadfield, 62, was the first Canadian to perform extravehicular activity in space, flew two space shuttle missions and served as commander of the ISS.
He called on the contestants to become an expert in different fields because “there is no one to ask” when they are launched into the galaxies.
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