Cavenauts return to Earth

September 21, 2012
Cave wonderland.

The international team of astronauts taking part in ESA's caving adventure have returned to Earth after spending six days underground. The voyage to the surface of our planet took them five hours from basecamp.

gives astronauts a taste of working as a safe and effective team during long spaceflights. In particular, they can hone their leadership and group skills while working in a typical multicultural team found on the International Space Station.

Course designer Loredana Bessone explains the similarities of caving and working in space: "The 'cavenauts' have to adapt to a completely new environment. Working and living underground is both physically and mentally demanding."

Space protocols were used in the course: "Cavewalking is similar to a . You have to pay continuous attention to the correct use of tools and safety protocols, to the progression path and to obstacles, which correspond to No Touch Zones and Keep Out Zones on the Space Station."

CAVES is the first behavioural course to involve astronauts from all partners of the . Astronauts from USA, Japan, Canada, Russia and Denmark participated this year.

Apart from exploring and surveying parts of the caves, the astronauts also conducted speleological research: cave meteorology, geology, biology and microbiology.

Nikolai ascending to the surface.

They set traps and collected of underground life, which have now been forwarded to specialists for further analysis.

This year the astronauts explored further than the CAVES 2011 team and discovered what astronaut Mike Fincke described as an underground "wonderland."

ESA astronaut Andreas Mogensen is very positive about the course: "CAVES is perhaps the most physically demanding that I have taken part in, and perhaps also the most rewarding.

"To complete the training, our crew had to work together effectively and efficiently as a team, which we did.

"All in all, it was a fantastic and unique experience."

Explore further: Astronauts going underground

Related Stories

Astronauts going underground

September 12, 2012

ESA's CAVES training programme began its second phase last Friday as six astronauts ventured into the Sardinian caves in Italy that are their home this week. CAVES mimics elements of spaceflight to prepare astronauts and ...

Cave crew returns to Earth

October 24, 2011

Take five astronauts and instead of sending them into space take them underground. ESA’s CAVES venture prepares astronauts to work in an international team under real exploration conditions. The latest ‘crew’ ...

Tim gets his feet wet

April 18, 2012

ESA astronaut Timothy Peake will soon dive to the bottom of the sea to learn more about exploring space. A permanent underwater base almost 20 m below the waves off the coast of Florida will be Tim’s home for more than ...

Learn to dock ATV the astronaut way

April 11, 2012

Do you have what it takes to be an astronaut? ESA is making actual astronaut training available on your computer and tablet, so you can see for yourself.

Recommended for you

NASA telescope studies quirky comet 45P

November 22, 2017

When comet 45P zipped past Earth early in 2017, researchers observing from NASA's Infrared Telescope Facility, or IRTF, in Hawai'i gave the long-time trekker a thorough astronomical checkup. The results help fill in crucial ...

Cassini image mosaic: A farewell to Saturn

November 21, 2017

In a fitting farewell to the planet that had been its home for over 13 years, the Cassini spacecraft took one last, lingering look at Saturn and its splendid rings during the final leg of its journey and snapped a series ...

Uncovering the origins of galaxies' halos

November 21, 2017

Using the Subaru Telescope atop Maunakea, researchers have identified 11 dwarf galaxies and two star-containing halos in the outer region of a large spiral galaxy 25 million light-years away from Earth. The findings, published ...

Recurring martian streaks: flowing sand, not water?

November 20, 2017

Dark features on Mars previously considered evidence for subsurface flowing of water are interpreted by new research as granular flows, where grains of sand and dust slip downhill to make dark streaks, rather than the ground ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.