How to prepare an astronaut for the first spacewalk?

Former candidate for the European Space Agency’s 2008 astronaut selection, Hervey Stephenin He is now a teacher at the European Space Agency’s Astronaut Center in Cologne, Germany. Passionate about space exploration since childhood, this trained space engineer makes his experience available to future astronauts. He specifically specializes in spacewalk training, and spacesuit missions in the void in space outside ships.

To reproduce the constraints of weightlessness over an extended period of time without ever leaving Earth, Hervé Stevenin directed future astronauts to plunge into a huge pool ten meters deep for several hours. Training reimagined in 2000 while residing in Houston where NASA’s Giant Training Dock is located. “When you dive into Houston, it’s like there’s half a space station. One gets the impression that he is diving into Atlantis,” recalls Hervé Stephenen, who worked alongside the US Agency to set up a spacewalk familiarization program for European astronauts.

This program “bridging the gap between an astronaut’s diving experience and their first scuba training” was organized by NASA. It has many difficulties. The astronauts are locked in an enclosed space for 6-10 hours and lose their skill. “When you shake your hand, it’s like a tennis ball, because the gloves and wetsuit are pressed and you’re against the resistance. You have to adapt to it,” the coach said.

In addition to getting used to these limitations, these courses teach future astronauts to behave well in an inappropriate and hostile environment. “One of the first rules we teach them is to always be connected to two points. Then, they must manage cooperation with their partners, communication, work sharing. We also create unexpected situations for them. We take them out of their comfort zone,” says the coach, who details in Episode 8 of the podcast “Space Factory” What do these exercises consist of?

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>> The Space Factory, a podcast presented by Jules Grandsire of the European Space Agency, which introduces us to those who shape space. The astronauts, of course, but also their colleagues on Earth, are wonderful and talented, but they are often overlooked. The RTL podcast, co-produced by Colby Co/T2CS, with support from the European Space Agency.

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