ESA Caves 2014 team  Credits: ESA\R.DeLuca

ESA Caves 2014 team. Credits: ESA\R.DeLuca

Hello ESA CAVES 2014 followers! We just finished Day 1 of training here at the CAVES Training Centre located near Nuoro, Italy, and all I can say is WOW! The entire team is on location and working very hard to make this exploration analogue a safe and rewarding event.

We started the morning by learning about “Karst”, which is the process by which a cave develops over time. Dr. Jo De Waele (Belgium) presented some very interesting information that nicely integrated necessary learning points from geology, biology, meteorology and cave monitoring. His talk about cave-dwelling bugs, with help from Dr. Paolo Marcia, certainly captured our imagination! Dr. Francesco Sauro, with help from Alessio Romeo, discussed and provided some great hands-on photography training.   Taking pictures in caves in pitch-black conditions can be very tricky and learning how to do this properly will enhance data retrieval and documentation.

The Logistics coordinator, from Advanced Training Solutions, gave the operational briefing that prepared the team to experience this year’s first training cave. Jo and Francesco brought the cave newbies into the Sa Oche cave, which is mostly filled with water! We donned our wet-suits, climbed through the entrance and upon reaching the water, jumped in.

The first swim took us approximately 150 meters where we again did a small amount of hiking down to the next series of pools.   We swam and “hiked” through the rest of the

Caves 2014 participants training in a water cave.  Credits: ESA\V.Crobu

Caves 2014 participants training in a water cave. Credits: ESA\V.Crobu

complex and ended up in a beautiful pool of water that was very deep and approximately 10 meters in circumference. Photographers Riccardo De Luca, Vittorio Crobu, Carla Corongiu, and Sirio Sechi worked extremely hard to capture some great pictures and video’s that you can see on Flickr and YouTube. Of course, we couldn’t resist a “cannon-ball” water entry just prior to our return trip! We even saw some bugs (Crustacea-Isopoda, or beetles) and had some great science discussed by Dr. Laura Sanna.

At the training center, there were also many other members of the team helping with this event as well as preparing for follow-on events. Raffaella Pappalardo has spent many hours tying up loose ends and keeping the CAVES2014 public relations and communications effort hot on the press. A special shout out to Serena Puligheddu and Gabriela Acquas for feeding the team with the most amazing Italian food we have ever tasted! Thanks to Flavio Catte, Fabrizio Silvestri, Freddy Vergara, Germano Capriotti, Mimiu Pintori, Marco De Pra, Alexandros Kardaris and Alessandro Boesso for the huge help getting things organized and in motion.

We have a ton of training to complete before Friday. And Friday night we’ll enter Sa Grutta Cave for 6 days of exploration that will be sure to challenge the team like no other environment!

Day 2 is on deck, and promising to be even more “pazzo”!

Scott Tingle, known as Maker, on behalf of all the participants: ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano, Russian cosmonauts Sergey Kud-Sverchkov and Alexander Misurkin, ESA Eurocom Matthias Maurer and ESA Lead Eurocom and deputy lead for Crew Operations Antonio Fortunato.