August 28, 2012

‘Cavenauts’ Searching For New Life On Earth

Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

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An international crew of astronauts will be searching for life, but instead of venturing out into space, they will just be digging a little deeper here on Earth.

The Cooperative Adventure for Valuing and Exercising human behavior and performance Skills (CAVES) will be training astronauts to explore uncharted areas on our own planet through using space procedures.

After spending a week on Sardinia island in Italy learning the basics of spelunking, the team will venture underground into caves on September 7 for six days.

The crew will only be carrying down one shipment of supplies during their stay. They will be backed by a mission control team that will monitor the crew from a base station at the entrance of the cave.

The astronauts will be keeping a busy schedule by performing scientific work, as well as testing new equipment and procedures out.

The Sardinian caves still offer some unexplored and uncharted areas, leaving the "cavenauts" to have to navigate their way around carefully. They will be charting out their journey on maps to ensure they are able to make it back to base camp, and also help future explorers.

Because a large portion of the caves haven't been seen by humans, they still offer opportunities for the cavenauts to discover new life forms.

“Nobody has systematically looked for life in these caves,” ESA astronaut trainer and CAVES course designer Loredana Bessone said in a press release. “Finding life big and small is always good, so I am very excited we will be looking for exotic bacteria and cave dwellers such as arthropods.”

The team will be using the same safety protocols used on spacewalks, and will also test a new communication system.

The cavenauts' team-working skills and leadership qualities will be analyzed by trainers during the two-week course as well.