Speleology as an analogue to space exploration: The ESA CAVES training programme

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Marco E. Ciriotti
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Speleology as an analogue to space exploration: The ESA CAVES training programme

Messaggio da Marco E. Ciriotti » mar 20 apr, 2021 12:35

▪ Sauro, F., De Waele, Jo, Payler, S.J., Vattano, M., Sauro, F.M., Turchi, L., Bessone, L. (2021): Speleology as an analogue to space exploration: The ESA CAVES training programme. Acta Astronautica, 184, 150-166.

Caves remain among the most challenging exploration frontiers on planet Earth. They are difficult to access, present a range of unique and unusual environmental characteristics, and can only be mapped through direct human exploration. These challenges and several environmental factors specific to caves mean that speleology shares several analogies with space missions. For humans, cave exploration imposes isolation, confinement, minimal privacy, technical challenges, limited equipment and supplies, a sense of disconnect from the surface and regular life, a lack of diurnal cycles, and the constant presence of risk. As many of the same challenges are imposed on humans during space exploration, in 2005 the European Space Agency (ESA) began examining the possibility of using natural cave systems as a platform for astronaut training. These efforts resulted in a new ESA training programme named CAVES (Cooperative Adventure for Valuing and Exercising human behaviour and performance Skills) being launched in 2011, involving astronauts from partner space agencies. The primary objective of this training is to enhance astronaut individual and team performance and behavioural competencies by exposing them to the challenges of a real mission into an unknown and dangerous environment. To achieve this, the course's training activities are based around a real scientific and technological programme focused on cave science. Many aspects of the location and course content have been designed by a team of behavioural experts, scientists, trainers, operations engineers and speleologists with the support of caving organizations and schools. CAVES training events leverage cave exploration to create situations that are analogues to spaceflight in terms of safety protocols, perception and management of risk, crew composition and role assignments, group living, isolation, and confinement. In addition, these courses provide an opportunity for astronauts to experience spaceflight-like or relevant operations, science, equipment testing, and exploration, in preparation for future planetary endeavours. The scientific, exploration and equipment testing aspects of the course are real (not simulated). This ensures that these activities provide benefits to the speleological and scientific communities, whilst guaranteeing the realism of these activities for training purposes. During six editions of CAVES, from 2011 to 2019, 34 astronauts from 6 different space agencies (ESA, NASA, JAXA, ROSCOSMOS, CSA and CNSA) have taken part in the training. The CAVES training programme has been recognized by all participant astronauts and, in particular, by those who have travelled to space, as one of the best space analogue training opportunities available on Earth. The learning outcomes are applicable to both current and future orbital missions, as well as surface and subsurface missions to other planetary bodies.

NdR: Un articolo di prossima pubblicazione su Micro è il resoconto dei risultati della collaborazione AMI-ESA relativamente a uno dei numerosi training programme CAVES.
Marco E. Ciriotti

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