They even put down sand and boulders.
Moon Shaped Pool
NASA has turned its giant 6.2 million-gallon Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL) into a replica of the surface of the Moon to train astronauts, who will be venturing to the real thing in a matter of years.
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.
In fact, the space agency is going the extra mile to make it feel just like they're actually walking on the Moon, including boulders, sand, and even the movement of the Sun.
"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."
It's a considerable effort, laying the groundwork for what could be a historic mission. The first astronauts to walk on the Moon in over half a century are scheduled to launch later this decade as part of NASA's Artemis 3 mission.
The massive NBL pool was previously used to train crew members for extended stays on board the International Space Station as well as Orion spacecraft recoveries.
In the future, NASA is planning to use the facility to train astronauts for the Lunar Gateway, a space station that will serve as a stepping stone for astronauts on their way to the Moon's surface.
And, as more commercial space partners are getting involved, V2X is expecting to supply an increasing number of private companies with underwater simulations as well.
"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."
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