Thanks to the hangover of the Britain’s exit from the European Union, many Europeans might just want to bury their heads in the sand, but an international group of astronauts working with the European Space Agency are going one better, and heading deep underground.
As reported on Digital Trends, a group of six astronauts, hailing from Europe, Japan, China, Russia, and the United States, are set to take part in the ESA’s CAVE (Cooperative Adventure for Valuing and Exercising) training program, which will send the group deep into the depths of a cavern to experience life in an alien environment. Living and navigating in the caves offers a number of uniquely analogous experiences for the space travelers, such as the sensory deprivation provided by the lack of light and sound, and the challenges of walking along cave walls, which according to the ESA’s website, can help them train their spacewalking skills. Even more than as an alien environment, the caves act as a stand-in for a space station.
They began caving training on June 24th to learn how to navigate and survive underground, and will descend some 800 meters down into a cave system in Sardinia, Italy on July 1. The astronauts will spend six days down there, learning to work as a team, and how to survive within the harsh limits of the caves. In addition to the training for the astronauts themselves, they will also use the opportunity to test new mapping and communications equipment, which will also benefit from the challenges of the inhuman surroundings.
Sometimes the best training for space, in other words, happens below the earth.