Here in the United States, the NASA Space Program selects and trains new Astronauts every two years. Of all the eager men and women that apply, only about twenty are chosen. The future astronauts must have the important quality of working well with others in addition to physical fitness and a good education.
An astronaut begins his or her training at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. At the Space Center, they learn to perform all the tasks that will be required of them while in space. They also learn what to do in emergency situations. Astronauts in training perform these tasks and emergency drills for several months until they are ready for new challenges.
While in training, the astronauts also learn about the equipment they will be using in space. Flight simulators are used to practice safely launching, navigating and landing the space shuttle. Also, the astronauts test out the bulky space suits they will be forced to wear if they ever walk in space. Believe it or not, the swimming pool is the place that astronauts train with their heavy space suits! Because water is more dense and more supportive than air, it is a good way to get used to the weightless feeling of being in orbit.
Liftoff, Orbit and Spacewalks:
Did you know that the astronauts actually wear different clothes during launch and re-entry to Earth than they do during the rest of their voyage!? This special suit, which includes a helmet, gloves and boots, protects them from the changes in pressure and temperature as the shuttle leaves or comes back to the Earth. Once in orbit, the astronauts are free to wear whatever they find most comfortable.
To walk outside the shuttle, astronauts need yet another suit, called an "extravehicular maneuvering unit" or EMU. In this suit, the astronaut can talk to the crew aboard the shuttle, and is protected from the extreme temperatures of space! The EMU is also equipped with drinking water and oxygenated air.
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