Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Neutral Buoyancy


Wrapping up the "Tour of Johnson Space Center" theme this month is NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory.

The purpose of the NBL is to prepare for ExtraVehicular Activities (EVAs) in space. NASA teams use this giant training facility to develop flight procedures, verify hardware compatibility, and give astronauts ample practice for space walks in simulated zero-g.

Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory
Put simply, "neutral buoyancy" describes any object with an equal tendency to sink or float, and thus appear to hover underwater. While not a 100% imitation of weightlessness due to water drag on general motion, it’s still the best method available by which astronauts train for space-walking. The ability to perform on-orbit assembly and maintenance operations successfully is critical to all types of space endeavors.

The NBL contains full-sized mock-ups of the Space Shuttle cargo bay and the ISS; 10-ton cranes also help with the interchangeable flight payloads such as docking hatches, storage racks, connectors, and even a full-sized Hubble, all of which are moved in and out of the pool as needed.

Here is my "I Secretly Wish I Worked
For The Discovery Channel" Clip

The Communications System includes full two-way communications among the suited astronauts, topside trainers, facility test coordinators, the flight control team within JSC’s Mission Control Center and the remainder of the shuttle crew (not performing spacewalks) at the onsite Shuttle Mission Simulator.

Click here to see the entire NBL gallery, which includes the pool, various hardware, hyperbaric and hypobaric chambers, the control room, construction history and other world NBLs.