Paxi joins cavenauts in Sardinia’s dark caverns

CAVES staff under a ray of light
CAVES staff under a ray of light coming from the ceiling of a cave
13 August 2013
Each year, ESA invites astronauts from different countries to take part in the two-week CAVES project. This year, Paxi will be joining them as well! Our ESA Kids mascot will be training in the caves with the astronauts for a whole week.
The CAVES mission takes astronauts deep underground to explore the huge system of caves at Sa Grutta in Sardinia, Italy. The caves have many similarities to the conditions people experience in space. Isolated from the outside world, the cavenauts live and work in the dark, cold caves, relying only on their equipment and on each other. They live in small spaces with little privacy, and they must learn to work as a team in a strange environment where safety is critical.
This year, the six cavenauts will be:

  • Italian Paolo Nespoli, who joined the European astronaut corps in 1998 and has spent 174 days in space;
  • Canadian Jeremy Hansen, a fighter pilot and experienced rock climber;
  • NASA astronaut Mike Barratt, who has spent 211 days in space;
  • NASA astronaut Jack Fischer, a former test pilot who completed astronaut candidate training in July 2011;
  • Satoshi Furukawa of Japan, a medical doctor who lived on the International Space Station for 165 days;
  • Russian Aleksei Ovchinin, a pilot and flight instructor who became a cosmonaut in 2006.

Aquatic woodlouse
Alpioniscus species
After last year’s discovery of a new animal species, one of the most exciting scientific activities will be the search for new creatures! Another experiment will search for bacteria that can live in the dark and feed only on rocks or on traces left by humans.

Other experiments will study water, carbon dioxide gas, and winds in the caves.

The 2013 CAVES mission will take place in September. Paxi will be posting pictures on Twitter and Facebook during his stay. Stay tuned!


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