NASA's Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL)

Above: Astronaut in training at the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. Source: Wiki Commons

The Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL) is an astronaut training facility and neutral buoyancy pool operated by NASA and located at the Sonny Carter Training Facility, near the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. The NBL's main feature is a large indoor pool of water, in which astronauts may perform simulated EVA tasks in preparation for upcoming missions. Trainees wear suits designed to provide neutral buoyancy to simulate the microgravity that astronauts would experience during spaceflight.

During training exercises, neutral-buoyancy diving is used to simulate the weightlessness of space travel. To achieve this effect, suited astronauts or pieces of equipment are lowered into the pool using an overhead crane and then weighted in the water by support divers so that they experience minimal buoyant force and minimal rotational moment about their center of mass. 

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Did you know South African inventions clean the world's pools? 

The Pool Bug Automatic Pool Cleaner, designed in the late 1960s by prolific Joburg inventor John Raubenheimer, was the first of many South African pool cleaning inventions. It entered the market in 1972, preceding the Kreepy Krauly by two years. Although the Pool Bug was initially unreliable, it was an international breakthrough, provided inspiration for other inventions and created a worldwide industry. 

The Pool Ranger, developed in 1975 by Helga Schmeider, was another early pool-cleaning invention from South Africa.

Ferdinand Chauvier, a hydraulics engineer who emigrated to South Africa from the then Belgian Congo in 1951, invented the first commercially successful swimming pool vacuum cleaner. Chauvier realised there was a huge market for equipment that reduced the tedium of pool cleaning and developed a device that cleaned the pool, automatically and efficiently, powered by the water pump driving the pool’s filter.

The first Kreepy Krauly reached the market in 1974 from Chauvier’s home workshop in Springs. The Kreepy Krawly was an immediate success and soon became well established in the world market. The licence to make and sell Kreepy Krauly was eventually sold to an American company. When Chauvier died in 1985, his Kreepy Krauly was cleaning more than a million pools around the world.

The Baracuda MARS Pool Cleaner, from Zodiac Pool Care, is another innovative automatic pool cleaner invented in South Africa. It operates on water pressure, as opposed to suction used by traditional pool cleaners, and has a number of unique features that make it quieter and quicker than conventional cleaners. The Baracuda was invented in 2002 by Henk van der Meijde, Michael Moore, Peter Harrison, Paul Lambourn, Alexis Wadman and William Blake of Halfway House, Gauteng.  

Poolskim, designed in 1995 by Henry Spradbury and GW Sutton of Joburg, skims leaves from the water surface by tapping energy from the pool pump at its outlet. The floating “hat” that enables Poolskim to deal with changing water levels is one of its novel design features.

The PoolCop Automated Pool Management System, invented by Gustav Lutz, Maynard La Codi and Bennie de Lange of Joburg in 1997, continues the SA tradition of world-class innovation in pool-cleaning equipment.

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