Inside astronauts' grueling prep for space expedition from two weeks in underwater chamber to simulations

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ASTRONAUTS are required to spend weeks underwater learning how to spacewalk as part of their preparation for grueling expeditions.

More than 300 astronauts have been trained at NASA’s renowned Johnson Space Center in Houston since the first was selected back in 1959.

Budding astronauts are required to do two years of intensive training even before they can start to think about starting specialized mission training, according to NASA.

Candidates tend to have college degrees or military experience before training to become an astronaut.

Neil Armstrong served in the Navy during the 1950s before graduating from Purdue University with an aeronautical engineering degree.

While Alan Shepard, who became the second person to travel into space, was a graduate of the US Naval Academy before his NASA career.

The Sun takes a look at how astronauts are put through their paces before embarking on a space expedition.

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NASA candidates train underwater in a neutral-buoyancy lab that’s designed to simulate weightlessness.

The Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory was named in honor of Manley L “Sonny” Carter Jr who died in an aviation accident.

But, astronauts don't truly feel weightlessness as their spacesuit drags them down, NASA reveals.

This makes tasks more difficult to carry out than if they were undertaken in a zero-gravity experience.

The purpose of the NBL is to help astronauts train for spacewalks. This is when astronauts get out of a vehicle while in space.

Spacewalks can last anywhere between five and eight hours.

Astronauts spend 10 hours underwater for every hour they walk in space.

Candidates are urged to make the experience as realistic as possible in their own minds.


Candidates spend up to 300 hours in simulators as facilities try to make the experience as realistic to space-like conditions as possible.

NASA’s Space Vehicle Mockup Facility contains full-sized shuttle flight decks and a full shuttle mockup.

This allows astronauts to familiarize themselves with the layout of the shuttle.

The open space, which covers around 42,000 square meters, contains a 1/6th gravity simulator and Mars Rover test vehicles.


Meanwhile, pilot astronauts are trained in Gulfstream planes – that designed to create an experience similar to what they are likely to encounter when flying a space shuttle.

A spacecraft runway’s approach is almost seven times steeper than that of a plane millions of Americans travel on every day.

Astronauts learn about flight commands as they train inside a T-38 plane.

The T-38 is a twin-engine aircraft that's commonly used by the US Navy and Air Force.

NASA has a flight of more than 30 planes and the space agency spends up to $30million each year to fly and maintain the jets.

It’s likely that simulations will have to develop as space missions become more complex in future decades.


Astronauts are required to know how to move objects through space.

The objects have air force through them, which makes them easier to move.

The Precision Air-Bearing floor is a large metal floor and has been compared online to a large hockey table.


Astronauts don't just have to learn about the sciences and engineering; they also have to take language classes.

It particularly applies to those who have aspirations of working onboard the ISS where they'll have to speak to Russian counterparts.

Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques said Russian is "taken seriously".

He told Universe Today: "It’s taken very seriously in the program because of the level you need to reach if, God forbid, there was an emergency on board and there was a panicky discussion going on in Russian on the radio.

"Ultimately, you need to be fluent to be really useful in a situation like that.”

Saint-Jacques revealed that the purpose of learning languages is to "communicate" rather than to write fluently.

Astronauts also take public speaking classes as they'll be expected to give speeches.

Colonel Chris Hadfield warned that astronauts need to have “cool heads” and should forget what they see in films, Masterclass revealed.

Hadfield, 62, was the first Canadian to perform extravehicular activity in space, flown two Space Shuttle missions, and served as commander of the ISS.

He called on candidates to become an expert in different fields as “there’s no one to ask” when launched into the galaxies.

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