NASA has posted a 360 tour (above) of its Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.
The tour offers an inside look at the facility, which is used to train astronauts for spacewalks at the International Space Station (ISS).
The centerpiece of the lab is a giant training pool that offers astronauts a degree of weightlessness, allowing them to experience conditions similar to those in space. During pre-mission training, crew members enter the water in their full astronaut gear and work on submerged replica sections of the space station.
NASA claims the training tank is “the largest indoor swimming pool in the world, holding over 23 million liters of water,” but adds that, despite its size, it’s still not big enough to hold the complete space station, so specific sections of the ISS are used as and when required.
NASA’s 360 video shows two astronauts entering the water for a training session. The camera even goes under the water for a closer look at the astronauts’ activities. Of course, swimming in full astronaut garb is no easy task, so accompanying divers gently nudge the astronauts around the pool to the appropriate locations. NASA notes that because of the pressures experienced underwater, everyone who enters the pool uses oxygen-enriched breathing gas — otherwise known as Nitrox — to reduce the chances of experiencing the bends following a lengthy training session.
Besides the pool, the video offers a glimpse of the control rooms that monitor activities in the water, and we also get to see a mock-up of NASA’s Orion spacecraft that should be on its way to the moon before too long.
You can watch NASA’s 360 video using virtual reality (VR) goggles or on your smartphone. If you watch it on a laptop or desktop, don’t forget that you can drag the picture around to see the view in all directions.
For more on NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Lab, be sure to check out this video showing French astronaut Thomas Pesquet undergoing training prior to his launch to the space station earlier this year. Pesquet will be embarking on several spacewalks with fellow astronaut Shane Kimbrough during their time aboard the orbiting satellite.