How are astronauts trained in weightlessness

Lesson 2: The astronaut training

Science & Exploration

The astronauts need to prepare well before flying to the International Space Station. You will take part in a comprehensive and varied training program for more than a year. This program includes many physical exercises to keep the astronauts fit. They take language classes to learn Russian. They also learn how to fly a spacecraft, how to carry out experiments during their mission, how to move in weightlessness and how to behave in emergencies.

European astronauts mostly train at the European Astronaut Center EAC in Cologne, Germany. Together with the American astronauts and the Russian cosmonauts, they also take part in training at NASA's Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in the United States and in Star City, the Russian space agency's training center near Moscow.

Astronauts usually have their first experience of weightlessness in a special aircraft that simulates the conditions in space for short periods of up to 20 seconds. These so-called parabolic flights are a great way to learn how to hover.

Astronauts do a lot of sport because daily exercise keeps them fit.

During the training, the astronauts learn how to fly a spacecraft to the ISS and back to Earth. They use a simulator that is an exact replica of a real spacecraft to train flying in space.

In space, astronauts spend most of their time conducting scientific experiments. Before they fly to the ISS, they train together with the scientists to learn how the individual experiments are carried out.

In some cases, astronauts travel to space to repair parts of the space station or to conduct a specific experiment. To prepare for space walks, astronauts wear spacesuits while they train in water and work on full-size models of the space station.

Before heading into space, the astronauts must also train skydiving and learn to survive at sea, in forests and in the desert so that they know what to do in an emergency.

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