NASA astronauts Michael Fossum and Ron Garan were busy Tuesday at the International Space Station, spending six-and-a-half hours retrieving a failed ammonia pump and deploying a new science experiment -- a unique robot gas attendant.
As the American astronauts complete their final space walks some 200 or so miles above the Earth, training for future space missions continues in Texas -- with a little help from virtual reality.
At the Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, Fox News recently took an exclusive tour of the high tech training facility with veteran space-walker, Mike Massimino.
"You feel like you're in space," Masssiminio said, while floating virtually outside the comforting arms of the ISS. "I tell you, look how beautiful that is."
High-tech virtual reality glasses and special gloves transmit what astronauts see onto a video monitor, where instructors watch their every move. And with those gloves and fancy glasses, it looks and feels just like you're playing a video game. It's not. Shuttle crews practice their space walks here with the equipment, using a special 3D image of the International Space Station.
“This is very important because it gives us an idea of what it’s going to look like, how we’re going to communicate to each other, ” Massimino told Fox News.
Astronauts also practice lifting heavy loads in the facility, using a system of pulleys that help them lift what feels like a a 1,400-pound piece of equipment.
It makes them feel like "space Hercules," Massiminio joked.
Another tool astronauts use for space walk training is the Neutral Buoyancy Lab. Also at JSC, it’s the world’s largest indoor swimming pool. It’s 202 ft long, 40 ft deep and holds 6.2 million gallons of water.
It's massive, and that's just one tool our astronauts use to train for those space walks.
“You really can’t practice when you get to space, you’ve got to be ready for the ball game when you get there,” Massimino explained.
“This allows us to practice in an environment that is similar, at least visually, to what we’ll see.”