Cavenauts checking their data. Credits: ESA/V.Crobu

Cavenauts checking their data. Credits: ESA/V.Crobu

Caves are humid, dirty places, and exploring them means ‘going through squeezes’, bumping your rucksack (and yourself) along rocky walls and losing anything not constantly kept under the light of your headlamp or attached by tethers.

In caves technology is by itself a challenge: there are no power sources, no ADSL, no real infrastructure for geeks. You go back to the basics: paper (waterproof, of course), pencils, erasers and sharpeners are your best friends.

Yet we are preparing astronauts for space travel and we want their data to be passed on in a readable, organised form to scientists. Plus, we want to run space-like operations.

wi-fi tablets tested  used in the caves. Credits:ESA/S.Sechi

Wi-fi tablets used in the caves. Credits:ESA/S.Sechi

So we decided to bring technology to cavemen as it were and rock them with a state-of-the art portable, low-power, rugged wi-fi tablet-based infrastructure. We wanted to test a whole new operational concept for CAVES where everything is connected to everything else, and moving along with the explorers as they need it.

To be honest we had no budget, so we hired a brilliant trainee, and put him into slavery. Plus, we had no time, so we were late. But we learned a few good lessons…

Loredana Bessone, CAVES project manager and mission director