After three space missions, three spacewalks and 306 days in space, training continues for NASA astronaut Joe Acaba. For the most veteran space traveller of this CAVES edition, exploring underground will be a first-time experience.  

“I am a total cave rookie. It is hard to know what to expect from this very unique opportunity,” he admits. His expectations are high. “I have heard that CAVES is a real challenge and an awesome course. And my astronaut mates told me that I am going to see and experience extraordinary things in extraordinary places,” he says.

He hopes to share the skills and knowledge he learned during his space trips, and relate to it and share with his colleagues as much as he can.

A teacher in space. Credits: NASA

“Working together as a single team will help us make it through this experience. I understand that we have to look out for each other because there is some intrinsic danger in exploring caves,” points out Joe.

“Each of us has something different to offer and each space agency representative will bring a different cultural and technical background,” he adds.

Before he became an astronaut, Joe worked as a hydrogeologist in California, USA, and was involved in the assessment and remediation of groundwater contaminants. During this CAVES edition, the crew will learn how to trace water – the main link with life on Earth and a precious resource in space exploration. Joe’s expertise in groundwater will add to the wide and varied experience in the group.

NASA astronaut Joe Acaba completing survival training in 2004. Credits: NASA

“Like on any mission, probably the most important thing for me is building a good relationship with my crewmembers,” says Joe. To him, the greatest success of this missions would be to go into the caves as friends, and leave it as friends.

Learn more about Joe in his biography.