Astronauts take to the water to prepare for NASA's highly anticipated crew to the moon, currently slated for 2024.

The space agency posted several tweets this week showing preparatory training at the Neutral Buoyancy Lab (NBL) at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

The NBL includes a water-filled pool that is 62 meters long, 31 meters wide and 12 meters deep and can hold up to 6.2 million gallons of water. While the pool does not exactly reproduce the gravity conditions in space, the facility is currently the best available method of training astronauts prior to missions, according to NASA.

Current activity in the pool is aimed at evaluating Johnson's space testing, development and crew training facilities for the Artemis moon mission, where the first woman and next man step on the lunar surface.

New suit. ???? ‍ ???? New tools. ???? ️ New mission. ???? @ NASA_Astronauts are now preparing for lunar walks planned when we land the first woman and next man on the moon – and they are practicing underwater to evaluate how we will train for #Artemis missions. More:

– Johnson Space Center (@NASA_Johnson) September 23, 2020

While NASA has a lot of experience doing space station missions and conducting space walks outside of the orbiting outpost, it's a little rusty when it comes to the skills required for manned lunar missions, the last of which occurred nearly five decades ago.

This means that astronauts will try their hand at a range of tasks in the pool complex, including taking samples of lunar regolites, examining a lunar lander, and of course planting the American flag.

You will also need to perfect the ability to climb up and down a ladder, swing a chisel, and take lunar walks while wearing a spacesuit on a surface whose gravitational force is about 17% that of Earth.

We are testing tools and developing training for lunar surface operations and lunar walks that @NASA_Astronauts will perform on Artemis missions. ????

Watch live this Friday as we talk to the astronauts who train underwater! Submit your questions using the hashtag #AskNASA and stay tuned for more information.

– Johnson Space Center (@NASA_Johnson) September 23, 2020

"These early tests will help identify the best addition to hardware development facilities and requirements for future Artemis training courses and missions," said Daren Welsh, director of extravehicular activity testing for these Artemis pre-test runs. "At the same time, we will be able to gather valuable feedback on spacewalking tools and procedures in order to identify some of the objectives for the missions."

Welsh added that while it is possible to evaluate tools in a laboratory, “you can learn so much by putting on a pressurized spacesuit and working within the limits of its mobility. These NBL runs are so valuable in understanding the human performance component and ensuring our astronauts are as safe as possible. "

The practical astronaut training is not just based on water. NASA also uses outdoor locations that to some extent resemble the places it wants to visit on the moon, including the lunar south pole.

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