Six astronauts have survived an unorthodox new method of spaceflight training: marathon team spelunking! Spending almost a week underground, the training is designed to expose future astronauts to the isolation and danger awaiting them in outer space. I’m not sure if this makes me want to be an astronaut way more, or way less.
This is all part of the European Space Agency’s CAVES exploration course – that’s short for “Cooperative Adventure for Valuing and Exercising human behavior and performance Skills,” somehow. It’s the ESA’s goal to throw together multicultural groups of astros-in-training and force them to work together, as a team, in a difficult environment.
For this mission, the ESA tossed a bunch of future-nauts into Sa Grutta cave, on the Italian island of Sardinia. The astronauts were equipped with a list of sciencey things to get done before emerging, including tests for water chemistry, soil microbiology, and atmospheric humidity. The team was comprised of NASA’s Mike Barratt and Jack Fischer, the ESA’s Paolo Nespoli, the Canadian Space Agency’s Jeremy Hansen, cosmonaut Aleksei Ovchinin, and Japan’s Satoshi Furukawa.
Hilariously (terrifyingly?), in case of emergency, the ESA says it would take more time to extract astronauts from Sa Grutta than it would to get them down from the International Space Station.
That’s some serious training.
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