To prepare for outer space, astronauts go underground

It turns out that caves are good for space training. But how?

ESA’s team of astronaut trainers in the caves of Sardinia preparing for Caves 2014, a two-week course for astronauts to get to grips with living in extreme conditions

ESA’s team of astronaut trainers in the caves of Sardinia preparing for Caves 2014, a two-week course for astronauts to get to grips with living in extreme conditions

 

If you are going to space, it pays to hone particular skills, such as being able to live in harmony at close quarters with your colleagues, and mastering the manoeuvres for space walks.

But where on Earth can you practise? Caves can act as a “space analogue”, and the European Space Agency will shortly bring an international team of astronauts into a cave in Sardinia to put them through their paces underground.

It’s the fourth such expedition for ESA’s Co-operative Adventure for Valuing and Exercising Human Behaviour and Performance Skills (Caves).

Course designer and co-ordinator Loredana Bessone describes why caves are a good choice for space training.

“The underground is an environment which creates many stressors also created by space flight, such as an alien environment, the need for special equipment, isolation, confinement, inherent risk, the need for continuous situation awareness and exploration of the unknown,” she says. “Cave progression techniques are also very similar to space-walking techniques. They involve double-tethering, a backpack, use of handrails, 3D movements, limitation in the field of view and forced pathways.”

Next month, five astronauts-in-training – three who have flown to space before and two rookies – will head into the Sa Grutta cave with a support team for several days. The “cavenauts” will collect data about the biology, meteorology and geology of the caves, and they will test underground communications and surveying technologies.

Safety is the priority, says Bessone, but she hopes the experience will also fuel the thrill of exploration.

blogs.esa.int/caves

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.