NASA’s giant 6.2-million-gallon Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL) has been turned into a replica of the surface of the moon in order to train astronauts who are looking to visit the real thing very soon.
Astronauts will be diving to a depth of 40 feet to experience a simulated one-sixth of the Earth’s gravity, with the help of weights and flotation devices, inside the 202-by-102-foot diving tank.
This should have been enough but the space agency is including boulders, sand, and even the movement of the Sun just to give it a realistic feel of actually walking on the moon.
“We are in the midst of installing sand that mimics the lunar regolith,” Clay Tomlinson, program manager at V2X, a company contracted to build out the Moon replica, told Gizmodo, which will “allow astronauts to traverse through that environment just to have an understanding of how it will feel.”
The historic mission of walking on the moon will be part of NASA’s Artemis 3 mission scheduled to take place later this decade and will be the first in over half a century.
The pool was used to train crew members for extended stays on board the International Space Station as well as for Orion spacecraft recoveries. In the future, NASA will use this facility to train astronauts for the Lunar Gateway which is a space station that will serve as a stepping stone for astronauts on their way to the Moon’s surface.
V2X expects to supply an increasing number of private companies with underwater simulations followed by the involvement of numerous commercial partners.
“We’re in a daring time,” Tomlinson told Space.com. “You can feel that throughout the entire center. There’s excitement around the exploration and new challenges… it’s more [now] than I’ve seen previously.”