Skip to main content

NASA photo reveals special training for astronaut lunar missions

An eerie image released by NASA reveals how the space agency is gearing up for some rather unique astronaut training.

Captured from inside a giant tank of water at NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL) at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, in the murky light we can make out two figures on a surface replicating that of the moon.

NASA testing lighting conditions for an upcoming lunar mission.

The setup is designed to imitate the conditions that astronauts will experience during the first-ever crewed visit to the lunar south pole as part of the upcoming Artemis missions.

The water tank, for example, goes some way to helping astronauts feel the gravitational conditions on the moon, while the unique lighting setup replicates the dim conditions at the south pole as the sunlight only ever appears a few degrees above the horizon.

“Kill the lights — we’re simulating a moonwalk!” NASA Johnson said in a tweet featuring the photo, adding: “Divers at NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory turned off the lights to simulate what an Artemis astronaut might experience at the lunar south pole — long, dark shadows.”

Kill the lights – we’re simulating a Moonwalk!

Divers at NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory turned off the lights to simulate what an Artemis astronaut might experience at the lunar south pole – long, dark shadows.

— NASA's Johnson Space Center (@NASA_Johnson) February 2, 2022

“This testing and evaluation involved turning off all the lights in the facility, installing black curtains on the pool walls to minimize reflections, and using a powerful underwater cinematic lamp, to get the conditions just right ahead of upcoming training for astronauts,” NASA explained.

While getting used to the unique lighting conditions inside the 40-foot-deep pool, astronauts will learn tasks such as collecting samples of lunar regolith using different tools, checking over a lunar lander, and, of course, planting the American flag.

NASA testing lighting conditions for an upcoming lunar mission.

NASA is particularly interested in the lunar south pole as it contains water ice, a resource that’s expected to play an important role in future crewed missions exploring deep space.

“We know the south pole region contains ice and may be rich in other resources based on our observations from orbit, but, otherwise, it’s a completely unexplored world,” NASA’s Steven Clarke said previously.

NASA is aiming to put the first woman and first person of color onto the lunar surface in the Artemis III mission, currently slated for 2025.

Before that, the uncrewed Artemis I mission, set for launch this year, will perform a fly-around of the moon to test the hardware, with Artemis II taking the same route with a crew on board.

Editors' Recommendations

Trevor Mogg
Contributing Editor
Not so many moons ago, Trevor moved from one tea-loving island nation that drives on the left (Britain) to another (Japan)…
Meet NASA’s trio of mini moon rovers set to launch next year
Part of NASA’s CADRE technology demonstration, three small rovers that will explore the Moon together show off their ability to drive as a team autonomously – without explicit commands from engineers – during a test in a clean room at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in December 2023.

NASA is ramping up its plans for exploring the moon, not only in terms of preparing to send astronauts there but also rovers. There's the VIPER rover, which will search for water around the lunar south pole, and now NASA is introducing a trio of mini rovers called CADRE, or Cooperative Autonomous Distributed Robotic Exploration. These will work together as a team to map the lunar surface, testing the possibilities of using rovers in groups for future exploration.

The rovers, developed at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, are just the size of a carry-on suitcase. They are designed to move independently but share data so they can cover more ground than a single rover could. They'll have to work over a lunar day, which is about two weeks, to map out features on the surface and look below ground using radar.

Read more
NASA puts out call for potential Mars astronauts
An illustration showing astronauts on the moon.

The Universe is Calling: Apply to Be a NASA Astronaut (Official NASA Video feat. Morgan Freeman)

Up for a trip to Mars? Apply to become an astronaut.

Read more
Artemis II lunar crew rehearses splashdown in the Pacific
NASA's Artemis II crew rehearsing the splashdown for its upcoming mission.



Read more