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Astronauts discover caves on Earth and achieve the talents they may want for the Moon and Mars

We’re used to astronauts who end their missions safely. They go to the Worldwide House Station for months and do what they do, then go dwelling. However upcoming missions on the floor of the Moon, and probably Mars, will current new challenges.

Specifically, astronauts are making ready to satisfy these challenges by exploring the acute situations within the caves.

The European House Company's CAVES (Cooperative Journey Program for Valorizing and Demonstrating Human Habits and Bodily Efficiency) is a three-week coaching program for astronauts. In CAVES, groups of astronauts be taught to work cooperatively, safely and successfully in multicultural groups.

This week, a group of six astronauts spends every week experimenting on the backside of a cavern on the Karstian plateau in Slovenia. The time is spent on experiments resembling microplastics analysis. They check the chemistry of the water and discover methods to trace the water and perceive the way it flows within the caves. They’re additionally in search of the indicators of an excessive life tailored to the cave.

To perform all this, astronauts should overcome bodily obstacles collectively, map caverns, seize photographs, and gather scientific samples.

The six cavenauts of this version of CAVES are ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst, NASA astronauts Joe Acaba and Jeanette Epps, Roscosmos cosmonaut Nikolai Chub, Canadian House Company astronaut Josh Kutryk, and Japanese house company Takuya Onishi. Picture credit score: ESA – A. Romeo

However maybe a very powerful a part of their mission is determining tips on how to work collectively in a various group of individuals. They be taught to speak successfully, to cooperate and to unravel issues. Management and group dynamics are additionally underneath strain.

Their work begins earlier than they enter the caves. The astronauts spent every week on the floor making ready for the mission. They use this time to arrange for the psychological problem of being in a confined house with none intimacy. They need to additionally put together for all of the technological challenges they may face with minimal gear.

An astronaut examines a small drip pool. Picture credit score: ESA – A. Romeo

The astronaut group will conduct a complete of 12 scientific experiments as soon as contained in the caves, specializing in the fragile local weather, wildlife and water of the cave. The hunt for all times is a necessary a part of their job.

"This would be the first time group will observe the underground life for a number of days on this cave of the karst plateau," says Franci Gabrovšek, professor on the ZRC SAZU karst analysis institute in Slovenia, on a weblog. "We hope to search out new species," says Franci. It was ESA's second CAVES expedition that found the crustacean Alpioniscus sideralis in 2012.

Alpioniscus sideralis is exceptional as a result of it has accomplished an evolutionary cycle from life in water to land after which again to water.

The biology contained in the caves is of specific curiosity to the CAVES group. There isn’t any mild there and never a lot meals. However the caves nonetheless harbor species which have found out tips on how to dwell in these excessive environments. Species present in caves might be very uncommon and their presence can assist scientists rebuild weather conditions and habitats.

Astronauts will gather specimens from the partitions and flooring of caves, in addition to from rocks and puddles. They’ll analyze the DNA and examine the morphology. These analyzes and observations will assist to higher perceive how life varieties have tailored to the atmosphere of the cave.

An astronaut works arduous within the caves. Picture credit score: ESA – A. Roméo

The extremophiles discovered within the caves are significantly attention-grabbing. These microbes have tailored to nutrient-poor environments and a few of them use life cycles based mostly on nitrogen and sulfur relatively than carbon. Some dwell solely on rocks. If we encounter life someplace in our photo voltaic system, it’s doable that these types of life are extremophiles, establishing a parallel between the CAVES missions and the doable exploration of different worlds of the photo voltaic system.

Whereas underground, astronauts will talk with floor mission management. The floor group can observe the progress of the underground group on a generated 3D map and find the experiments they carry out. They will pair the experiences with photographs that the cave group sends them and so they also can ship feedback to the basement group.

This picture comes from the 2012 expedition of CAVES in caves in Sardinia. Throughout this expedition, the astronauts found a brand new species. Picture credit score: ESA – V. Crobu

The six astronauts on this version of CAVES are ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst, NASA astronauts Joe Acaba and Jeanette Epps, cosmonaut Roscosmos Nikolai Chub, Canadian House Company astronaut Josh Kutryk and JAXA Takuya Onishi. Chub and Gerst function co-commanders of the expedition.


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