An eerie image released by NASA shows the space agency preparing for a rather unique astronaut training.
Captured from a giant water tank at NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL) at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, in the dim light we can discern two figures on a surface that replicates that of the moon.
The setup is designed to mimic the conditions astronauts will experience during the first-ever manned visit to the Moon’s South Pole as part of the upcoming Artemis missions.
For example, the water tank helps astronauts feel some gravity on the moon, while the unique lighting setup mimics the dim conditions at the South Pole, as sunlight only 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 moon’s south pole: long, dark shadows.”
Turn off the lights – we simulate a Moonwalk!
Divers from NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory turned off the lights to simulate what an Artemis astronaut might experience at the moon’s south pole: long, dark shadows. pic.twitter.com/naslhzzix7
— NASA’s Johnson Space Center (@NASA_Johnson) February 2, 2022
“These tests and evaluation include turning off all lights in the facility, installing black curtains on the pool walls to minimize reflections, and using a high-power underwater film lamp to get the conditions right for the upcoming astronaut training,” explains NASA out .
As they get used to the unique lighting conditions in the 12-meter-deep pool, astronauts learn tasks such as collecting samples of lunar regolith with various tools, controlling a lunar lander and, of course, planting the American flag.
NASA is particularly interested in the moon’s south pole, as it contains water ice, a resource that is expected to play an important role in future manned missions exploring deep space.
“We know the Antarctic 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 previously said.
NASA aims to place the first woman and first person of color on the lunar surface in the Artemis III mission, currently scheduled for 2025.
Before that, the unmanned Artemis I mission, launched this year, will conduct a flight around the moon to test the hardware, with Artemis II following the same route with a crew on board.