I get to quit saying “Roamy here” because XBrad got the byline ^^^^ thing to work, though I may keep doing it out of habit.
NASA has two neutral buoyancy space simulators, basically big pools where the astronauts practice their spacewalks. Why two neutral buoyancy facilities? Marshall’s was built in 1955 and was used for Gemini, Apollo, Skylab, and Shuttle training. It made sense to have the training facility closer to where the astronauts lived, so one was built at the Johnson Space Center in the mid-1970’s. The problem with the Weightless Environment Training Facility (WET-F) at Johnson was that it was only 25 feet deep. Too shallow for some of the work, especially training for the Hubble Space Telescope repair missions. Both facilities were used throughout the ’80’s and ’90’s, until Johnson built their Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL) in 1996, which was six inches deeper than the one at Marshall. The one at Marshall has been mothballed for several years and probably would have been torn down by now if it hadn’t been made a National Historic Landmark in 1985.
I used to work with a technician, now long retired, who assisted with the neutral buoyancy training. He told me about Alan Shepard ripping a glove open on a sharp edge and having his suit fill up with water. The safety divers were pulling him out, and he radioed the test conductor, “Just make sure they don’t turn me upside down!”, as he had only the air flow keeping water out of his helmet. The lovely wife of our reader Bill was a safety diver during the Hubble training days and appeared in a National Geographic article on the first Hubble repair mission.
Well, NASA found a way to pay some of the bills on the Johnson facility rather than mothball it, too. NASA and the facility contractor Raytheon are working with Petrofac to train oil rig employees in offshore survival techniques.
The partnership will initially focus on delivering Helicopter Underwater Egress Training, Basic Offshore Safety Induction and Emergency Training, and Further Offshore Emergency Training, three core survival courses delivered throughout the oil and gas industry worldwide. The partnership will also expand into delivery of Emergency Response and Crisis Management training for the oil and gas and other industry sectors by using the NBL’s on-site test control rooms.
Might as well put the facility to good use until we have more need for astronaut training. I should say that there are still astronauts being trained in the NBL for spacewalks, it’s just that with the International Space Station complete and the Shuttle retired, the level of activity has slacked off.