That’s it, today the intrepid cavenauts leave for the cave to spend six days underground. The bags are packed and the roles have been divided. Japanese astronaut Aki Hoshide will be commander of this fifth CAVES expedition with a handover of commander duties to NASA’s Ricky Arnold who is now campsite manager. Taikonaut Guangfu is the team’s survey and data engineer, with cosmonaut Sergei taking photo and video engineer duties. Spanish ESA astronaut Pedro Duque is the expedition’s scientist for environmental science, geology and microbiology with NASA’s Jessica Meir assigned the role of biologist.
We asked the cavenauts to provide an impression of their training and caving experience so far:
The six of us from different countries arrived here in Sardinia about a week ago. We have a great crew and great support team that trained us for the past week and will be helping us for our six-day journey underground. Looking forward to the adventure that starts tonight!
It is a great privilege to take part in one of the last exploration activities remaining on Earth and to enter the underworld supervised by world-class experts. We will use the knowledge we gain about ourselves and the group in our next space endeavours.
What an amazing experience this has been so far, the breathtaking views of the alien underworld here in Sardinia are not only incredibly inspiring, but provide a unique and very valuable opportunity for spaceflight crew training. The exceptional ESA CAVES team has provided us with outstanding training and our crew feels well prepared, and very excited to begin our mission. Even our training week alone has left an unforgettable impression on me, and I know this will only be heightened with our six-day stay underground!
Seven days of our pre-cave training were fullfilled with getting acquainted with caves, theory, rock-climbing, wonderful Sardinian landscapes and an unbelievable amicable time together with newly-acquired crewmates.
And now we are qualified cavenauts, who stand with no fear on the cusp of our first real cave mission.
The only regret is saying good bye to our fantastically amiable ESA CAVES team that turned around our lives by making us addicted to caves.
The writings of Jules Verne have inspired millions, myself included. Our 6 day journey of science and discovery will take us a half kilometer below the surface of the earth. Much like the vivid tales of adventure of Mr. Verne, our human journey is only limited by the power of our imagination.
I am Ye Guangfu, a taikonaut from China. It’s my honor to take part in the CAVES training with astronauts from USA, Russia, Spain and Japan. I am really pleased to be a member of the international crew. I think it will greatly improve the comprehensive ability of an astronaut by means of implementing special mission in such an extreme environment. Atfer the training course from ESA specialists for a week, now I am eager to start the breathtaking and challenging adventure underground!