On June 23, our international crew converged upon the island of Sardinia from all directions of the planet to embark upon the CAVES 2016 mission. It has been a knowledge filled and action packed week so far, as the exceptional ESA CAVES training team attempts to bestow their impressive expertise into our novice minds (no small feat!). We have been outfitted with our specialized caving garments and equipment, learned about cave geology and biology, received training (both in the classroom and hands-on in various caves nearby) on various scientific experiments (including biological sample collection and environmental monitoring) and mission objectives (cave exploration and surveying, photography, photogrammetry and video production), and even suspended ourselves with our technical caving equipment from a custom built training frame to master ascents and descents when ropes are required for cave passage. Our most memorable day thus far was our excursion into Grotto de Sos Jocos, an impressive labyrinth of tight squeezes, cathedrals, and breathtaking cave mineral formations from which we had to navigate on our own to return and exit the cave. Fortunately our instructors kept a close eye on us to provide course correction as required! What an amazing introduction into the incredible world that lies underground here in Sardinia this has been already! We are very much looking forward to beginning our 6-day mission in the underworld, T-2 days!
It has become clear that our real objective this year is to save Luca. Yes, famous and beloved Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano. It was revealed to us from a previous video blog that Luca is being held hostage here in the Sardinian underground. We have made distinct progress in tracking him and we are confident we will succeed. We have been conserving small quantities of parmesano and other Italian delicacies to sustain his Iron Man appetite. Luca, keep the faith! We are coming for you!
This blog entry comes to you from @Astro_Jessica, NASA astronaut Jessica Meir
Video of Luca Parmitano on the third day of CAVES 2014 underground: