Luca on exploration

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ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano spent six months on the International Space Station, is a veteran of two spacewalks and has taken part in ESA’s CAVES and Pangaea courses as well as NASA’s underwater training mission NEEMO.

In this talk held at ESA’s astronaut centre near Cologne, Germany on 16 February 2017, Luca talks about astronauts and exploration and how astronauts train and prepare for exploring our universe and the similarities between missions on Earth and in space.

Space agencies are always looking for ways to prepare and train for spaceflight without leaving Earth. ESA sends astronauts underground in Sicilian caves and NASA goes underwater. Astronauts from all Space Station partners join to make the experience as realistic as possible – working efficiently and safely with a culturally diverse team is part of the package.

ESA’s CAVES course stands for Cooperative Adventure for Valuing and Exercising human behaviour and performance Skills. The two-week expedition prepares astronauts to work safely and effectively in multicultural teams in an environment where safety is critical – in caves.

The Pangaea course is designed to provide European astronauts with introductory and practical knowledge of Earth and planetary geology to prepare them to become effective partners of planetary scientists and engineers in designing the next exploration missions. The course also aims to give astronauts a solid knowledge in the geology of the Solar System from leading European scientists. 

NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations sortie, or NEEMO, has a team of four living and working in the Aquarius underwater research station off the coast of Florida, USA. For two weeks they live and work almost 20 m underwater to test tools and techniques for spacewalks as they venture outside the base in full scuba gear. By adjusting their buoyancy, the aquanauts can simulate the gravity levels found on the Moon, Mars and asteroids.

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