Chris Hadfield in the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory - Part 1


2011-03-16 - Canadian Space Agency Astronaut Chris Hadfield welcomes us to NASA's Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL), where astronauts learn to spacewalk. In this video, Chris shows us some of the tools and equipment astronauts must familiarize themselves with before they train underwater. (Credit: Canadian Space Agency)

YouTube Video     Chris Hadfield mission website

Chris Hadfield: Hi. Chris Hadfield here. We are at the Neutral Buoyancy Lab. This is the underwater training facility where we learn how to do space walks. And in a few days I'm going to be under water, practicing and teaching another astronaut, one of the new astronauts, one of David and Jeremy's classmates, about space walking, practicing, keeping my own skills fresh here, under water, in Houston, Texas.

At the Neutral Buoyancy Lab we do a lot of training of course before we get in the water. Our tools are all laid out for us to train with, including mock-ups of the Canadarm, and all of our various equipment that we need to learn how to use to be able to successfully walk in space, all laid out on tables. And we go through them one by one. We have all the various joints of the Canadarm the crew might have to work with - replacing cameras. In the foreground are several of the big boxes that are on the space station that we might have to change out as they break over time on board the space station.

If you have your feet in a portable foot restraint and you want to turn, you can get one foot out, step on the off pad, and the whole articulating portable foot restraint will turn. And if you want to roll on a different axis, then you can roll out left and right.

But the tools we use in space go from extremely simple, like this wire tie that we just loop around things and hold on - the Russians had that idea, the wire tie, very simple - to pretty straightforward like a ratchet, where you've got to turn the ratchet and it's got a handle for you, nice socket, ratchet set, right through to some pretty complicated tools that are used for locking down the doors of the space shuttle or similar equipment that we use on the space station.

A lot of the tools are made of metal. Trouble is when you get in the water, the metal is still more dense than water, so it pulls you to the bottom of the pool. So some of the heavier tools, like our big drill, our big pistol grip tool, we make out of plastic. That way, when you get in the pool, it has the same density as the water. It doesn't float, it doesn't sink. And when you really have to use a tool, the divers will just give you a high-fidelity working tool and you can take off the plastic one. It's a compromise, but it works for the simulation.

Hoses and clamps and connectors. The space station is cooled with ammonia. It has fluid connectors for water. It has fluid connectors for other gases, like nitrogen and helium. And so all of those need to be trained for opening and closing and connecting in orbit. And this is the simulator we have in order to practice all of the techniques for releasing, lifting and adjusting all of the various parts of the space station, the big bails that'll open and close them to allow us to remove a connector. It's all different types, and this is where we learn to use them.

EMU gloves. These are the gloves that we wear to do a space walk. Hand goes up inside, all the various bladders. Custom fit. Sometimes we wear a liner inside just to soak up the sweat. But it's pressurized, so we have this bar we pull across the back really tight, and that squeezes on the glove so that it doesn't balloon up when you're working out in space.

Water bag. This goes inside. Here's the drink spout up here that we drink through, and it gets carried inside a little Kevlar bag inside so that we have water to drink while we're outside for seven or eight hours.

It's important to wear your helmet. When we're out in space, this is our space walking helmet. It's got visors, place for the head. It's even got a little thing inside on this side to clear your ears and scratch your nose, and a saliva device. And that's a space walking helmet.