Rocklin Company Trains Astronauts in Waters of Lake Tahoe

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POSTED 5:45 PM, JULY 19, 2019, BY UPDATED AT 02:11PM, JULY 19, 2019

LAKE TAHOE — When Lake Tahoe comes to mind, you might think of the beautiful landscape, boating and paddleboarding — but the crystal-clear water is also perfect for something out of this world. “This is a simulated zero-gravity environment when you’re in neutral buoyancy,” Advancing X CEO Dr. Eduardo Diaz said.

AdvancingX, based in Rocklin, is on a mission to train everyday people to become astronauts. Without actually going into space, it’s hard to know what it feels like to train without zero gravity, so the best way to do it on Earth is by doing it in the water. “Your weightlessness, the neutral buoyancy once you get underwater, it’s the same thing that NASA trains on. They just have a very large pool that they train in in Texas, so this is equivalent to that,” participant and safety diver Richard Merenda said. The company uses a space vehicle mock-up called the Submersible X which sits 30-feet below the surface. Currently, they’re using the vehicle to train dive teams like the Placer County Sheriff’s Office –but ultimately, they will train astronauts. “Underwater, you get a depth, some people can stress out,” Merenda said. “Of course, if you’re going to stress out in the water, you don’t want to stress out in space.”

Right now, they’re taking applications for their “career astronaut” program. Thousands of space seekers from 48 countries have applied so far, but only a select few will be chosen for the mission. “We’ll send up one team of four in 2023 to sub-orbital space flight,” Diaz said.

Like NASA, you do need a bachelor’s degree in a STEM field to apply. But unlike the space agency, Advancing X says an art degree will work too. On the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 landing on the lunar surface, the moon remains a goal for Diaz. “That would be stellar,” he said.