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UMD Only College Campus With Neutral Buoyancy Tank For Future Astronauts

6:53 AM, Apr 29, 2013   |    comments
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COLLEGE PARK, Md. (WUSA9) -- Future astronauts are getting a huge advantage when they choose University of Maryland to do their studies. The training they get is unlike any other university in the world.

It's a dream aspiring astronauts spend years chasing: got to work and be nearly weightless.

Step one, or maybe flipper one, starts at the neutral buoyancy tank at the University of Maryland. It's the only college campus in the world where research like this can take place. If working for NASA is your goal, then getting here should be, too.

PH.d. candidate Kate McBryan from Arizona told us, "This place has a neutral buoyancy tank and does space systems and it's one of the only places that has one of those things so I came across the country."

With the help of student volunteers, researchers build and test tools that will be used in outerspace. The tank is 25 feet deep and can simulate what it's like to maneuver a huge piece of equipment in near zero gravity.

Chris Carlsen,  a student volunteer, told us, "We'll add weights, we'll take away weights.  There are six different dimensions. You have to make sure it's weighted correctly in order for it to operate as if it's in space."

Dave Akin, the Director of the Space Systems Lab, added, "You have to adjust the buoyancy and the ballast so it doesn't quite float and it doesn't quite sink, and that's why we call this neutral buoyancy."

The orbs have onboard cameras. In outerspace, they can fly around the International Space Station to inspect it. That's why students like Chris Carlsen volunteer for this work. His passion is robotics.

"You'd send a robot on Mars, would leave a person on Mars, and it has to work all the time which is challenging but incredibly neat!" said Carlsen.

You have to be scuba certified to help with the lab.

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