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19 Apr, 2023
2 min time to read

NASA's Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory, with a capacity of 6.2 million gallons, now serves as a training ground for astronauts headed to the moon.

NASA is leaving no stone unturned in preparing for their historic Artemis 3 mission, which will have the first astronauts walking on the Moon in over half a century. To ensure that the astronauts have the most authentic experience possible, NASA has partnered with a company called V2X to build a Moon replica in a 202-by-102-foot diving tank.

The astronauts will dive to a depth of 40 feet and use weights and flotation devices to experience one-sixth of the Earth's gravity. The Moon replica will include boulders, sand, and will even simulate the movement of the Sun, giving the astronauts a realistic experience of walking on the lunar surface.

Clay Tomlinson, program manager at V2X, explained that the company is currently in the process of installing sand that mimics the lunar regolith, which will "allow astronauts to traverse through that environment just to have an understanding of how it will feel." This will make the experience even more authentic and help the astronauts prepare for the challenges they may face on the Moon.

The diving tank, which is called the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL), has been previously used to train crew members for extended stays on board the International Space Station as well as Orion spacecraft recoveries. However, NASA has bigger plans for the NBL in the future. The space agency intends to use the 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.

As more commercial space partners are getting involved, V2X is expecting to supply an increasing number of private companies with underwater simulations. Tomlinson expressed his excitement about the current state of space exploration, saying, "We're in a daring time. 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."