Sergei Kud-Sverchkov has a curious, inquisitive nature. This active and creative cosmonaut has spent the past few years training intensively to one day be able to fly to the International Space Station. He participated in CAVES in 2014, and shares with us the passion for geology he discovered during ESA’s geology training course: Pangaea 2018.

I can’t avoid seeing the world in a different way now. I simply can’t look at a landscape and not start thinking about its evolution, trying to decipher its context. I am sure that if I walk on the shore right now, I will look at the pebbles on my way with fresh eyes.

Analysing rocks. Credits: ESA–A. Romeo

We are in Lanzarote, Spain. I have never seen anything like this before. The volcanic soil, the barren landscapes, almost no vegetation – it is not hard to imagine that I am walking on the surface of Mars.

Pangaea has changed the way I understand Earth and its place in the Universe. I cannot put aside all the geological knowledge we have grasped in these three weeks of intense lessons and work on the field. I am trying to assimilate a new way of thinking.

We are learning how to explore other planets. If you arrive in an unexplored area, what would you do? Where would you start? How would you explore it in the most efficient way? Pangaea teaches us how to use our knowledge and set priorities during simulated spacewalks on another planet.

Sample collection in Montaña Señalo, Lanzarote. Credits: ESA–A. Romeo

Our main task is to gather information from the environment and communicate it to the science teams. Leading European geologists give us advice to fulfil our scientific tasks. We are not looking for solutions – it is exploration at its purist.

We also learn how to work as a team. Together with my Pangaea crew mates Thomas Reiter and Aidan Cowley, we set off every day to the field with a focus on achieving our scientific goals. And we assume different roles every day, just like we do in Star City, near Moscow, when we train for spaceflight.

Because you never know what you might have to face in a real space mission, it is part of our training to learn how to react in case of anomaly. You must always be ready to take over the tasks of your crew mate and learn how to cooperate in the most efficient way. This is exactly the same in Pangaea.

I am eager to learn more about geology and keep exploring the hidden treasures of our world, and beyond.