Training for space

CCTV News

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Space is a harsh environment. But, over the years, countries with astronaut programs have learned how to handle complex tasks while in orbit high above the earth.

CCTV America’s Sean Callebs gave us this report.

Training for space

Training for space

Space is a harsh environment. But over the years, countries with astronaut programs have learned how to handle complex tasks while in orbit high above the earth.

Early on, scientists prepared them for the unknown – what COULD happen – what COULD go wrong in zero gravity.

The very first U.S. astronauts, selected in the late 1950’s fit a rigid criteria. All were test pilots – no taller than 5ft11 – with a strong background in engineering.

“They performed a very important function,” says former NASA astronaut Franklin Chang-Diaz. “Which is to demonstrate that humans could actually survive in space.”

A lot has changed during more than 50 years of space travel. NASA has broadened its ranks from military pilots to include citizen and scientists. The average number of college years completed by an astronaut jumped from about four to nearly eight-and-a-half.

Training has also graduated. NASA now relies on what it calls the Neutral Buoyancy Tank to simulate space walks.

Franklin Chang-Diaz retired from NASA in 2005 and is in the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame. He flew on seven space flights, including three grueling space walks. Chang-Diaz says the time in NASA’s giant pool to simulate weightlessness is critical.

“It is very important to make sure you can tease out any potential mistakes… Because your time is very precious out there,” said Chang-Diaz.

These days, the space program also depends on virtual reality. Training in VR include many life challenging scenarios – including finding your way back to the space station if your tether breaks.

While missions are longer than early days of space flight, one thing has not changed: U.S. astronauts still spend HOURS in the classroom with books and computers.

Though it may not be glamorous, in the end, it helps with the most important goal returning safely to earth.


John Horack and panel discuss the direction of space exploration

To discuss the potential futures for space exploration and China’s role, CCTV America’s panel spoke to John Horack. Horack is Neil Armstrong Chair in Aerospace Policy at Ohio State University.