Ever wondered what it's like to train to become an astronaut? While you might have seen astronauts floating around in reduced gravity aircraft to get used to the feeling of being weightless, there's also another way.
Since 1996, Nasa has been using a 202ft x 102ft pool with a depth of 40ft that contains a full-scale replica of the International Space Station (ISS) at the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory in Houston, Texas, to help simulate weightlessness and enable astronauts to get used to completing complex tasks in a zero-gravity environment, such as helping to repair the Hubble Space Telescope.
Water works better than the aircraft because it provides a neutral buoyancy environment, so objects can be easily manipulated, much like in orbit, because they are just as likely to float as they are to sink, so the astronaut can get used to the types of situations they would encounter in space. Of course, water can never truly replace the feeling of being in space, because an astronaut will never truly be weightless in the water, even if the combined weight of the astronaut and the suit is neutrally buoyant, and water resistance can make it harder to do certain things than in space.
Still, it's a pretty good representation of what it would be like, and the 360-degree video VR experience uploaded by Nasa to YouTube is a fun way to experience what astronaut training is like. You can either explore the environment by clicking on the arrows in the top left-hand corner of the video below, or click to open this in full screen on your mobile device and then move your device in the air around you to see what it's like.