Big Pic: Astronauts Practice For Space In An Italian Cave

It's gorgeous down there.

European space agency scientists posing in an underground cave system in Sardinia

Who are these (other)worldly folks? They’re a team of European Space Agency scientists, and they’re visiting an extensive underground cave system in Sardinia, Italy.

The team is preparing for the world’s most hardcore company trip. Every year, the European Space Agency sends astronauts to chart part of the Sa Grutta cave system for several days. The program lets the astronauts see what it’s like to work with one another and be responsible for each other’s safety in a challenging environment. This year’s trip will begin in September and include trained astronauts from Italy, Canada, the U.S., Japan and Russia.

The photo above shows the program staff during a dry run they performed in June, while the one below shows astronauts during last year’s trip.

ESA's scientist walking around an Italian cave

The program’s participants practice space walk protocols and gather samples while they’re underground. Last year, the astronaut team discovered a new species of woodlouse, a land-dwelling isopod that’s related to crabs, lobsters and shrimp.

European Space Agency