NASA's Neutral Buoyancy Lab
-0001-11-30 Posted By:
One does not simply build an International Space Station. It takes years of planning and, for the astronauts charged with its assembly, months of training and practice in a simulated micro-gravity environment—that also happens to be the World's Largest Constructed Indoor body of water.
It is known as the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL)—a 202 foot-long, 101 foot-wide, 40 foot-deep lagoon located at the Sonny Carter Training Facility in Houston, near the Johnson Space Center. It holds 6.2 million gallons of water, 5,000 gallons of which must be replaced weekly to compensate for evaporative losses alone. The quantum of water can fill up to 9 Olympic Swimming Pools.
It is regarded as humankind's greatest laboratory, which is even wider than a football field. The facility provides would-be astronauts the experience of a micro-gravity climate similar to that of space and allows them to practice EVA missions in a controlled environment.
Trainees, accompanied by a pair of safety divers, are lowered suit and all into the pool by way of an overhead crane and are then sufficiently weighted to achieve neutral buoyancy. Trainees may spend up to six hours at a time practicing their spacewalking moves.