In The Matrix, one of my favourite movies, Neo is walking up a set of stairs when he spots a black cat in a corridor. The cat disappears around a corner only to reappear in the corridor a few seconds later. Neo casually dismisses it as a case of déjà vu. However, Morpheus and Trinity immediately recognize it as a glitch in the Matrix and as a sign of the danger that is about to befall them.

The same sort of situational awareness and attention to detail is necessary when you are a member of the Shenanigans 2009 class of ESA astronauts. Is your coffee cup still on the same side of your computer as when you left your office? Is your desk chair the same height as when you last sat in it? These are all clues as to whether or not you are about to become the victim of another shenanigan. Unfortunately, long periods of calm can give a false sense of security and dull the senses. As a result, it is a skill that has to be relearned occasionally.

I recently had this lesson taught to me again, when I noticed that the name tag on my flight suit was missing. We all have extra sets of Velcro name tags and national flags for our training flight suits, so I dismissed it as a case of careless misplacement. I should have known better…

As readers of this blog know, Tim recently took part in NASA’s NEEMO 16 mission. The team of four aquanauts spent 12 days living underwater, testing the operational and technical concepts needed for an asteroid sampling mission. Read more about the mission and check out the awesome pictures at https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/NEEMO/index.html. Tim brought back not only a wealth of experiences, but also the video below, which illustrates magnificently why our astronaut class of 2009 is called the Shenanigans.

Thomas’ and my name tags are now four miles of the Florida coast and 20 meters below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean, waiting to greet the next visitors to the gazebo of the Aquarius habitat. The only way to retrieve the name tags is for one of us to participate in the next NEEMO mission. Here’s to hoping!

PS. I will be participating in ESA’s CAVES training in September. The training is similar to NEEMO, except that we will be living underground in a cave in Sardinia for six days. Check out the video from last year’s CAVES team, which included Thomas and Tim at https://www.esa.int/esaHS/SEMBNGFURTG_index_0.html. Suggestions by tweet welcome for how to get back at Tim.



  • Rhonda Roo (xoxoroo on Twitter) says:

    Hahaha! Can you call a mulligan on a shenanigan? 🙂 Love the Matrix reference – just dont take the red pill OR the blue one, ok?

    I’ll be thinking about Project Payback, and tweet when inspiration strikes. In the meantime, I thoroughly enjoyed NEEMO coverage and hope we can save the Aquatic Reef Base!

    Keep up the great work, ESA peeps! xoxo from Florida!

  • Gabrielle says:

    HAHAHAHAHA Thomas was just telling me last week when I visited him at the EAC that his name tag had vanished 😀 He then described me the life of a Shenanigan, emphasizing the fact that when Tim Peake is around, you should watch out carefully 😀 Nice example of what he told me!
    You guys are lucky; I am looking forward to joining the team, although I will never be a Shenanigan 😉

  • Sarai Pahla says:

    I had such a good laugh at this story – Shenanigans is definitely an appropriate name for your group! I hope there are plans for some light-hearted retaliation afoot…

  • Janis says:

    Why do I get the feeling that Luca and Samantha’s reaction to this class nickname was along the lines of, “Shenani-what? Oh come off it, that’s not even a word!” 🙂

  • Valeria Ronsivalle says:

    You make me die laughing …. sure that work is so beautiful 🙂
    I will follow you, Shenanigans, and good luck for your training 😉
    Greetings from Rome 🙂

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