A group of 6 astronauts will be descending below the Earth’s surface today as part of the international CAVES project.
While it might seem like a drastic change to environments they are used to, the astronauts (from 6 different space agencies) will actually be preparing for space flight in the caves of Sardinia, off the west coast of Italy. There, they must adapt to confined spaces and cope with a lack of privacy while they are in isolation from the rest of the world – just like while in space flight.
The CAVES project was first set up in 2006 and has been running since 2008. It is an abbreviation of Cooperative Adventure for Valuing and exercising human behaviour and performance Skills. Such an ambitious project has attracted participants from all over the world:
- Mike Fincke – NASA
- Andrew Feustel – NASA
- Andreas Mogensen – ESA
- Nikolai Tikhonov – Russian Federal Space Agency
- Soichi Noguchi – Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency
- David Saint-Jacques – Canadian Space Agency
The astronauts will be testing new communications systems, employing safety protocols and reporting to mission control – the same procedures they will be carrying out in space. But the CAVES projects also ensures that the Earth is explored, not just what is above it. While in the caves, the astronauts will be mapping and surveying, and may even encounter alien life.
‘Nobody has systematically looked for life in these caves’ explained CAEVES course designer Loredana Bessone.