Cavenauts Take It Underground
September 12, 2012

Second Phase Of ESA’s CAVES Training Program Begins

Watch the Video: Cavenauts Head Underground

April Flowers for - Your Universe Online

The European Space Agency's (ESA) CAVES training program entered its secondary phase last Friday as six astronauts entered the Sardinian caves in Italy that will be their home for this week. CAVES (Cooperative Adventure for Valuing and Exercising human behavior and performance Skills) mimics elements of spaceflight to prepare astronauts and trainers for the real thing.

Spending time underground to mimic spaceflight might seem counterintuitive, but Hans Bolender, head of European Astronaut training, explains that many elements are the same, “There are many similarities to spaceflight such as a lack of day—night cycle, sensory deprivation, minimal hygiene and the necessity to work as a team and solve problems together.”

This year, the CAVES training program includes astronauts from all of the International Space Station partners: NASA´s Mike Fincke and Drew Feustel from USA, David Saint-Jacques from the Canadian Space Agency, Roscosmos´ Nikolai Tikhonov from Russia, JAXA´s Soichi from Japan and ESA´s Andreas Mogensen from Denmark.

Designed to work in a multicultural environment, CAVES focuses on human behavior and aims to help astronauts improve their teamwork and leadership skills. The astronauts spent almost a week getting to know one another and learning the skills necessary to survive the six day tour underground.

During their training week, the astronauts learned safety protocols, abseiling and roping techniques, mapping and orienteering underground as well as photography lessons in complete darkness for cataloguing any life found during their stay. Portions of these caves have not been explored before, and the "cavenauts" will be creating maps for future explorers.

The team will be presented with tasks and problems designed by the trainers while they are in the Sa Grutta caves. How they tackle problems and work together will help the trainers to assess and improve their capabilities and skills.