A dress code for the cave

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ESA – A. Romeo


The CAVES 2019 team completes the equipment and clothing fit check in preparation for their underground expedition.

Astronauts from five space agencies around the world take part in ESA’s CAVES training course – Cooperative Adventure for Valuing and Exercising human behaviour and performance Skills.

The six cavenauts of this edition of CAVES are ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst, NASA astronauts Joe Acaba and Jeanette Epps, Roscosmos’ cosmonaut Nikolai Chub, Canadian Space Agency astronaut Josh Kutryk and Japan’s space agency  Takuya Onishi.

The cavenauts will wear a first layer of thin and thermal clothing. Pants, T-shirts, underwear and socks will keep them warm and dry. An antibacterial fabric will minimise smells and can be used for several days in a row. The second layer is a water-resistant and breathable over-suit.

Special caving boots are another crucial element designed for muddy and wet terrain. The cavenauts will use certified helmets and gloves to protect their hands during tough climbing. Kneepads and elbow protection also come with the package.

Much like during a spacewalk, astronauts will use harnesses and carabiners to overcome obstacles in their way. About three kilometres of rope and 300 carabiners will be at their disposal as they climb, descend and move around the cave. 

The three-week course prepares astronauts to work safely and effectively in multicultural teams in an environment where safety is critical.

As they explore caves they encounter caverns, underground lakes and strange microscopic life. They test new technology and conduct science – just as if they were living on the International Space Station.

Read more about CAVES on our dedicated website and follow this year's CAVES campaign in the new blog

Credits: ESA – A. Romeo

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