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Paxi joins cavenauts in Sardinia’s dark caverns

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13 August 2013
CAVES staff under a ray of light
CAVES staff under a ray of light coming from the ceiling of a cave, which appears very infrequently throughout the year.

The ESA CAVES team is preparing for CAVES 2013 by doing a 'dry run' at the training site. Procedures, tasks, equipment and locations are checked in preparation for the real thing: sending six astronauts underground in September.

CAVES, an abbreviation of Cooperative Adventure for Valuing and Exercising human behaviour and performance Skills, prepares astronauts to work safely and effectively and solve problems as a multicultural team while exploring uncharted areas using space procedures.

Members of the CAVES dry-run team in the picture, from right to left: Jo De Waele, science coordinator and instructor; Francesco Sauro, technical and exploration instructor, responsible for safety; Loredana Bessone, course and mission director, behavioural facilitator; Paolo Marcia, Principal Investigator Speleobiology; Alessio Romeo, technical caving assistant and logistics support; Carla Corongiu, logistics support and photo/video assistant; Stefan Leuko, Principal Investigator Microbiology; and Diego Urbina, IT and science operations support and cavecom.

Credits: ESA–V. Crobu
Aquatic woodlouse
This crustacean from the Alpioniscus species was discovered during ESA's CAVES 2012 training programme. Just under 8 mm long, these animals belong to the suborder of terrestrial isopods, commonly known as woodlice.

Most crustaceans such as crabs, shrimps and lobsters live in water while woodlice are the only group that have fully adapted to life on land.

The ancestors of the terrestrial isopods seem to have evolved from aquatic life to live on land. Surprisingly, the astronauts found a species that has returned to living in water, completing an evolutionary full circle.

Credits: ESA–M. Fincke
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