Science & Tech

Spacewalking: Training

Chris Hadfield

Lesson time 17:31 min

Chris describes his personal experience training for spacewalking in an underwater simulation and emphasizes the importance of gaining confidence in maneuvering and monitoring the spacesuit.

Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

Topics include: Spacewalk Simulations • Mentally Get Yourself in the Game


The very first spacewalk was done by a guy named Alexey Leonov. And he just about died. He went out on the spacewalk. His suit inflated. It was way stiffer than anybody expected. He couldn't bend his arms. He couldn't bend at the waist. The airlock that they had hastily constructed, because it was during the days of the space race, was actually made of pressurized material. So it was almost like coming out of one of those bouncy castles. And he was outside on a spacewalk. He was only out for one big pass of Russia, just 10 minutes or something outside. But when he tried to get back in, none of their preparation had gotten him ready for what it was actually going to be like. And he just barely got back in. In fact, Alexey, who was a really good gymnast and a very fit man, he had to manually depressurize his spacesuit right down to the level where it could barely keep him alive, where he was risking the nitrogen boiling out of his blood and getting the bends just to make his suit flexible enough that he could somehow physically manhandle his way back inside, pull the airlock in, get the hatch closed, and accomplish our first spacewalk. We learned a lot from Alexey. And we also learned that we need to somehow prepare and simulate for spacewalking in a much more realistic manner than he did. And we thought, what's the most spacewalk-type environment that we have on Earth? It's underwater. It's like scuba diving. And so the very first American astronauts that were going to spacewalk, they actually went down to some of the Caribbean islands. So they had a lucky break to do their spacewalk training in the shallow water using some of the early scuba equipment to try and train and develop spacewalking techniques. But then they dug an underwater training facility at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. And ever since then, ever since Alexey first took a huge risk to try and figure it out, we've been training for spacewalks underwater. We build an entire piece of space hardware down there. In the early days, it was the Space Shuttle, because that's where all our spacewalks occurred from. But now there's a huge section of the International Space Station permanently underwater in one of the biggest swimming pools in the world just on the outskirts of Ellington Field by the Johnson Space Center. And that's where I spent hundreds and hundreds of hours underwater, days and days underwater, trying to learn how to operate a spacesuit, how to maneuver myself, how to think in three dimensions, but also how to invent spacewalking, how to develop all of the techniques. It's not so much like you're just going to class and learning how to do something. It's not like you just go to astronaut school and you get a certificate and now you're qualified. It's more you have to gain all these skills, but then you're part of the team that is applying those skills, since it's all so new, to invent new techniques to do things, so that you and your crew...

About the Instructor

Impossible things happen. At age nine, Chris Hadfield knew he wanted to go to space. He eventually went there three times, becoming a commander of the International Space Station. In his MasterClass, Chris teaches you what it takes to explore space and what the future holds for humans in the final frontier. Learn about the science of space travel, life as an astronaut, and how flying in space will forever change the way you think about living on Earth.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

Chris Hadfield

The former commander of the International Space Station teaches you the science of space exploration and what the future holds.

Explore the Class
Sign Up