PARIS, September 11. /TASS/. Russian cosmonaut Nikolai Chub along with five astronauts from Germany, Canada, the US and Japan will take part in a speleological expedition and an experiment in Slovenia, the European Space Agency (ESA) published an article about the journey on Wednesday.
"After a week of preparations above and underground, the ‘cavenauts’ are set to explore a cave in Slovenia where they will live and work for six days," the ESA website says. Course designer Loredana Bessone pointed out that "it is all part of a simulation, but the experience is the closest you can get on this planet to the environmental, psychological and logistics constraints of a space mission." She also underlined that the group will be guided by the best speleologists in the field.
Apart from Chub, the group is made up of German scientist and astronaut Alexander Gerst (ESA), NASA astronauts Joe Acaba and Jeanette Epps, Canadian Space Agency astronaut Joshua Kutryk and Japan’s Takuya Onishi.
The cavenauts will descend into the cave on September 20. The same day the researchers are expected to reach their destination and set up a base there. "Supported by a team of instructors and safety personnel, the six explorers will take their own decisions and work autonomously, isolated from the outside world and coping with communication delays," the agency noted.
The article also underscored that the group’s objectives include "air and water flows as telltale signals of new paths ahead. The crew will learn how to trace water — the main link with life on Earth and a precious resource in space exploration." "Caves are normally made by running waters. ESA picked a cave for this edition in an area where rivers flow underground. To keep the element of exploration, astronauts themselves do not know the exact location," the agency added.