Emirati astronauts learn how to spacewalk in world’s largest indoor pool

Hazza Al Mansouri and Sultan Al Neyadi are being trained for long-haul space missions by US space agency Nasa

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Emirati astronauts have spent hours at the bottom of the world’s largest indoor pool to learn how to perform spacewalks for future space missions.

Hazza Al Mansouri, the first Emirati in space, and Sultan Al Neyadi are receiving training at Nasa's Johnson Space Centre in Houston, Texas.

New images showed the pair wearing 130-kilogram extravehicular activities spacesuits while performing tasks underwater.

Located at the Neutral Buoyancy Lab, near the space centre, the pool is 12 metres deep and contains 2.4 million litres of water.

It helps simulate microgravity and allows astronauts to work on a replica of the International Space Station placed underwater.

“A sense of excitement and seriousness is present every time we train in the Neutral Buoyancy Lab,” Mr Al Neyadi said.

“This complex and physically demanding training can last up to six hours underwater, where we simulate spacewalks outside the ISS … one step closer for another achievement.”

Astronauts can spend up to 10 hours a day at the bottom of the pool to practise maintenance work on the space station model and refine spacewalk techniques.

Nasa astronauts regularly train at NBL. Most of them are required to carry out spacewalks outside of the International Space Station to conduct routine maintenance work and perform upgrades to the floating laboratory.

The task, however, is extremely dangerous and requires practice and skill.

In 2013, Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano nearly drowned when water from his spacesuit leaked into his helmet during a spacewalk.

In 2019, Nasa astronaut Chris Cassidy’s wrist mirror broke off, releasing thousands of pieces of space junk.

The Emirati astronauts’ training in the US will help them qualify for Nasa-led missions.

They are also training in Northrop T-38 Talon supersonic jets, which helps a pilot experience seven G-force.

The T-38 can fly at Mach 1.6 – 1,975 kilometres an hour – and 12,000 metres high – that is 3,000m higher than typical passenger airliners.

Mr Al Mansouri and Mr Al Neyadi have completed six months of their 36-month training programme.

Two new Emirati astronauts will begin their training at the Johnson Space Centre this year.

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