Astronauts Take Underwater Moonwalk In 'Apollo 11 Under the Sea' (Photos)

Apollo 11 Under the Sea
ESA astronaut Jean-François Clervoy standing in the Comex-designed Gandolfi spacewalk off the coast of Marseille, France. Image released Sept. 10, 2013. (Image credit: Alexis Rosenfeld/ESA)

It's a haunting sight: a lonely astronaut clad in a spacesuit, standing in a gray, otherworldly landscape.

But why are bubbles coming out of the spacesuit? It turns out this "spaceman" actually worked at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea during underwater training sessions conducted by the European Space Agency (ESA) when these underwater moonwalk photos were taken on Sept. 4.

ESA astronaut Jean-François Clervoy, seen in the photo, and ESA astronaut instructor Hervé Stevenin adopted the roles of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin for an underwater simulation of the historic Apollo 11 mission to the moon, entitled "Apollo 11 Under The Sea." The French deep-diving company Comex simulated the gravity on the moon by adjusting the astronaut’s buoyancy to one-sixth of the gravity felt on Earth. Observers watched from mission control on the Comex research vessel, Minibex, floating above.

ESA astronaut instructor Hervé Stevenin ready to perform soil core sampling with a core tube and a hammer underwater off the coast of Marseille. During the mission, several soil samples were collected by the aquanauts with similar tools used on the Moon by the Apollo 11 crew. Image released Sept. 10, 2013. (Image credit: Alexis Rosenfeld/ESA)

Clervoy and Stevenin wore a Comex-designed Gandolfi spacewalk training suit, based on the Russian Orlan spacesuit. During the mission, the aquanauts collected several soil samples with tools similar to those used on the moon by the Apollo 11 crew. Clervoy is an experienced astronaut, having flown three space missions aboard NASA's now-retired space shuttle. Stevenin, spacewalk training lead at the European Astronaut Centre in Germany, is an experienced instructor for ESA astronauts.

This underwater test represented a first step toward developing European expertise in spacewalk simulations under partial gravity for exploring the moon, asteroids and Mars, ESA officials said.

Follow @Spacedotcom. We're also on Facebook and Google+. Original story on

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at:

Tom Chao
Tom Chao has contributed to as a producer and writer since 2000. As a writer and editor, he has worked for the Voyager Company, Time Inc. New Media, HarperCollins and Worth Publishers. He has a bachelor’s degree in Cinema Production from the University of Southern California, and a master’s degree from NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Tom on Google+.