ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli, Canadian astronaut Jeremy Hansen, Russian cosmonaut Aleksei Ovchinin, Japanese astronaut Satoshi Furukawa and NASA astronauts Mike Barratt and Jack Fischer started their underground training yesterday with a first trip into the depths of the island of Sardinia, Italy.
The first job was getting used to moving around a cave. Like spacewalking, caving involves thinking in three dimensions, tethering and having a buddy for safety.
The unique course offers practical experience for the astronauts on leadership, teamwork, making the right decisions and solving problems in a multicultural team.
In many ways, the ‘cavenauts’ will be working in a more remote and hostile environment than on the International Space Station. In an emergency, astronauts in space can return to Earth faster than the cavenauts can ascend to the surface.