Cavenauts explore CAVES to prepare for spaceflight

Last light before entering the caves. From left: Ricky Arnold, Ye Guangfu, Sergei Korsakov, Pedro Duque, Jessica Meir and Aki Hoshide. Credits: ESA–V. Crobu
Last light before entering the caves. From left: Ricky Arnold, Ye Guangfu, Sergei Korsakov, Pedro Duque, Jessica Meir and Aki Hoshide. Credits: ESA–V. Crobu

Held each year, CAVES teaches astronauts to explore the underground system of the Sa Grutta caves in Sardinia, Italy, as a team, delving deep underground to perform scientific experiments as well as chart and document their activities.

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

The course is run by the European Astronaut Centre to simulate spaceflight. Seasoned International Space Station astronauts as well as rookies participate in the course and share experiences while learning how to improve leadership, teamwork, decision-making and problem-solving skills.

Behavioural training

Cave training

CAVES presents the astronauts with environments and situations very similar to spaceflight, to help them transfer the learning from their caving expedition to space.

Behavioural activities are woven into the course to foster effective communication, decision-making, problem-solving, leadership and team dynamics.

An important element of the expedition is the daily debriefing, which reflects on the successes and errors of the day, on similarities with spaceflight experiences and on how to reapply successful strategies or improve by learning from mistakes.

Learning is enhanced by the presence of experienced astronauts, who share their valuable flight experience with rookies.

2016 CAVES expedition

After six days in the Sa Grutta cave, all six crew members and the support team came out from underground. The 2016 Cavenauts were a truly international crew representing five countries. They are: Ricky Arnold, NASA astronaut from Maryland; Ye Guangfu, from the Chinese Space Agency; Sergei Korsakov, test astronaut for Roscosmos; Pedro Duque, European Space Agency Astronaut from Spain; Jessica Meir, NASA astronaut from Maine; and Aki Hoshide, JAXA astronaut from Tokyo.

Japanese commander Aki Hoshide on day 1 underground. Credits: ESA–V. Crobu

Japanese commander Aki Hoshide on day 1 underground. Credits: ESA–V. Crobu


On day 0, we entered the cave in the evening and moved to the “Witch’s Hat”, only a few hundred meters from the entrance. The next day (Day 1) was our first large progression to our main campsite through the Via Ferrata. The progression was technical, using all the tools we learnt to use during our training. We set up our tents, kitchen and toilet. The main campsite was to be our main home for the next few days.

On Day 2, we headed out to the 4th Wind Branch, which extended north from our campsite for approximately 1.1 km till the “Baikal Lake”.  The main objective of the day was to find an advanced campsite past “Baikal Lake”, which needed to have a water source close by, a good place to sleep (flat and soft, i.e. not on rocks!), and communication with the main campsite via radio. Once we found a suitable location, we returned to our main campsite, and returned to the advanced campsite the next day (Day 3). On the way we did more science and a survey of the area which we continued on Day 4 to explore further than our advanced campsite.

Exploring past lakes on day 5. Credits: ESA–V. Crobu

Exploring past lakes on day 5. Credits: ESA–V. Crobu

On Day 5, we started the trip in a different direction. From the main campsite we went south through the Lake’s Branch to Jericho Wall, about 2.4 km through lakes in wetsuits (very different from the first four days!). We found some life forms (!) in Monviso, and did some surveying at Jericho Wall to help make a more accurate map of the area. Day 6 was when we had to pack our gear and return to the ground, where we saw bright sunlight, smelled nature (other than rocks, sands, and ourselves), and were greeted familiar faces waiting for us just outside the cave entrance.

We have fulfilled our objectives to be safe, have fun, work together as a team and cover our science, survey and photogrammetry objectives. It was a privilege to have this unique opportunity that only a handful of people have experienced, and we are grateful for all who supported us throughout the expedition.

The CAVES 2016 expedition with a truly international crew from five different countries is now complete. But the underground adventure will continue…

To watch video blogs from each cavenaut on this expedition, click here.


NEEMO 15 – Splashdown Day!


Image shows NEEMO 15  crew members from right to left (Commander: Shannon Walker (NASA), Steve Squyres (Cornell), David Saint-Jacques (CSA), Takuya Onishi (JAXA))


Today was splashdown day.  As stormy as the weather had been for the last five days, today was sunny and beautiful.  And, thankfully, the seas were calm.


Because we had to delay our start of the mission, there were more habitat checkouts than usual to be completed before we could get to work.  Last weekend before the storms hit, the umbilical to Aquarius was removed to ensure that it was not damaged.  The umbilical provides the air and communications to the habitat and runs from the habitat up to a giant buoy on the surface.  First thing this morning support divers went out to reconnect the umbilical and our hab techs, James and Nate, went inside Aquarius to start getting it configured.  Early afternoon, the rest of the crew scuba’d down and entered their new home.  After an orientation and safety briefing, the crew was put to work stowing gear and setting up the communication system.


Once everything was ready to go, the sun was setting and it was getting dark outside the habitat.  But, our day was not done.  The crew had to do some familiarization dives to get acquainted with diving on a helmet connected to the habitat.  David and Steve went out first.  They spent about forty-five minutes walking around the area where we will be working our first excursion in the morning.  After that Tak and I went out. 


It was nearly 9:00 p.m. by the time we were finished.  So, we grabbed a quick bite to eat and then wrapped things up for the night.


All and all, a very interesting day.  It is quite strange to think that we are in a can that is at the bottom of the sea.  And, even stranger to look out your windows and see fish!



Crew poses for a group photo right after splash down. Crew members from the left to right (Commander: Shannon Walker, Takuya Onishi,Steve Squyres, David Saint-Jacques). Inside Habitat (Hab Techs: Nate Bender, James Talek)

DRATS..Mission Day 8

By NASA astronaut and DRATS crew member Scott Tingle.

Picture to the left shows Astronaut Scott Tingle performing an Extravehicular Activity (EVA) during DRATS 2011 testing.

Here we are at Test Day 8 of Desert RATS!  Crew A is currently executing their last day of extravehicular activities (EVA).  They are exploring the quarry (aka the Pit) and accumulating samples of the Black Point Lava Flow area.  Crew B is spending their last day in the Deep Space Habitat.  They are completing several maintenance, support and science tasks.  I got to tear down, clean, inspect and reassemble a differential from one of our space exploration vehicles (SEV).  I liked the procedure, and it gave me a chance to get my hands dirty!  Carolyn and Megan have been analyzing several samples obtained from the Hot Dog Hill area during the past couple of days.  Jake has been pressing hard to reach out to several schools, and has had great discussions with hundreds of America’s future and current engineers, scientists, technicians and operators.

Operations have been getting stronger and more efficient every day.  The team, to include the crew, mission control, science backroom, engineering, technicians, safety and operations, has been getting stronger minute-by-minute.  Watching this process has been the most rewarding aspect of this event for me. 

Another exciting aspect of this test is the many educational and outreach events the team has completed.  We have been talking to high schools, elementary schools, NASA Visitor Centers and local tours.  All of the outreach events provided opportunities for audience members to ask questions.  We’ve had hundreds of great questions and discussion points.  The entire team has supported these events.  Our audiences have had the opportunity to interact with engineers, technicians, managers and crew.  A few outreach events remain for Thursday and Friday, and then Media Day on Monday.  You can review recordings of these events on Ustream, or see pictures on Flickr.  Take a look at the NASA Desert Rats web page, Facebook page or Twitter to get more information and links to hundreds of pictures and videos.

Thanks to all for your support of Desert RATS!

DesertRATS overview by the Science Operations lead


By Dean Eppler,

Dean is this year’s Desert RATS Science Operations Lead

 I’m responsible for putting together the team of scientists that will be working with the crew in the field when they are doing science activities at Black Point.  I was originally trained as a geologist, but after more than 20 years in the space program, I’ve developed a specialty in defining and executing field science operations – the actual activities a scientist would do outside of a laboratory to understand and explore a particular location.  I’ve been fortunate to work at the South Pole, several hundred miles from the North Pole, on volcanoes, in the Grand Canyon, and in everything from a helicopter to a space suit.

After graduating from Governor Livingston High School in New Jersey in 1970, I went to St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York in 1974.  I received a Masters Degree from the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque in 1976 and after a stint in the U.S. Army, I attended Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona, where I received a Ph.D. in 1984.  I have been working in the Space Program since 1990, when I moved to Houston as an employee of Science Applications International Corporation.  My Desert RATS history goes back to 1997, when Mr. Joe Kosmo and I were part of the first Desert RATS team that went to Death Valley to do ergonomic studies of what geologists do in the field.  On that first venture, and almost 10 years of subsequent RATS trips, I was the test subject while Dr. Sudhakar Rajulu, a biomechanics expert, did motion studies of my activities as a did a variety of geologic investigations.  In 1998, I “graduated” to doing space suited activities, and for the next 8 years, I was the principal space suit test subject on our almost yearly excursions to Arizona and California.  In 2007, I moved up to the science management area, and in 2009, I was hired by NASA, in part to build on my experience on the previous Desert RATS exercises to expand the science support part of the test.

Last year, we tested a 14-day lunar exploration mission, with a full science team supporting the operation…now, what that means in simple terms is that when an astronaut is out on a planet’s surface, doing scientific exploration, there is a wide variety of people supporting them.  Some of these folks are from Johnson Space Center’s Mission Operations Directorate and they are concerned with things like the astronaut’s health and safety, the timeline of the day’s operation, and what to do in an emergency.  Our science team last year was responsible for paying attention to the scientific part of the mission – what do we want to accomplish scientifically, how is the crew doing it, do they need any scientific expertise to supplement their considerable talents, and are we seeing significant discoveries that we need to pay close attention to?  To accomplish that, we had approximately 10 scientists sitting in the science mission control 8-12 hours a day, in effect watching over the shoulders of the crew and helping them do their job in the field.

An important part of what we’re doing is testing – trying out new ideas for things no one has done before, seeing what works, discarding what doesn’t and improving what did.  Although NASA has been working on space exploration for 50 years now, there’s still a lot we don’t know how to do, and that we have to learn.  The most important part of this business is ideas – thinking of new ones, and testing them so we know what works, and equally important, what doesn’t.

That’s all I have for today…I’ll be posting more details in the next couple of days about what we’re doing, and what we’re learning.

Desert RATS..What is a “science backroom”?



In the photo you can see some of the team members from the Science backroom in Houston


By Dr. Sarah Noble

Sarah is a NASA geologist, and she is supporting the science backroom from the Netherlands in cooperation with the European Space Agency (ESA)


During the Apollo program, the astronauts had to learn a lot of geology in order to work on the lunar surface. The scientists who trained the astronauts wanted to remain involved in the mission and so they formed the first “science backroom,” a special room downstairs in the mission control building where they could monitor the astronauts on the lunar surface and communicate with them through Mission Control if they saw something they wanted to bring to the crew’s attention.


The Apollo science backrooms contained little more than a single black and white TV and a telephone to call Mission Control. Now scientists are used to interacting with data in real time and using that data to plan the next day’s science activities, like the Mars rover science teams. The Desert-RATS science team takes the best “lessons learned” from Apollo and robotic spacecraft operations and combines them.


Our Desert RATS science backroom is also in a room downstairs in Mission Control (we are across the hall from the ISS control room!), but unlike the Apollo backroom, we are operating with access to realtime data and video and interacting directly with the crew in the field.  For part of this campaign we also have a 2nd backroom set up in the Netherlands partnering with the European Space Agency at the European Space Research and Technology Centre.


The kinds of data that we have access to in the backroom includes live audio feeds from the crew (delayed 50 seconds because they are on an asteroid), video feeds (also delayed) from each crew member’s backpack as well as several video cameras including a “gigapan” camera on the rover, and more cameras inside and outside the “deep space habitat” or DSH.  We have GPS positioning of the rovers and the crew that are displayed in Google Earth.  We have geologic maps that were created for the mission from orbital imaging, like they would be in a real mission.  And we have all our individual geologic training to rely on.  All of these different types of data allows the backroom to follow along with the EVA as though we were in the field.  It’s as though each crew member has 9 trained geologists in their pocket as they go about their EVA.


In the science backroom, each team member has a specific role and job to do.  Some are following a specific crewmember as they make geologic observations and collect samples.  One is in charge of cataloging and prioritizing all the samples collected.  One is in charge of imaging, keeping track of all the cameras and even operating them when the crew is in the field.  We have a “Scicom”, the science equivalent of a “Capcom” that talks directly to the crew, and a science lead that keeps us all organized and coordinates with the flight director.


A typical day is about 12 hours long and is hectic and intense because we are keeping track of everything on the ground and observing what the crew is doing on the asteroid, and then on top of that, we are trying to make geologic sense of it all. 

Despite the long hours, we find it very rewarding to use our skills as scientists to enable meaningful science in the course of human exploration.


Image from the science backroom from the European Space Agency in the Netherlands.

DRATS Mission Day 5


By Dr. Jose Hurtado, professor of geology at the University of Texas at El Paso and crew member  

Image shows Jose doing an Extra-Vehicular Activity (EVA) with the Space Exploration Vehicle in the background.

 This is my third year participating in Desert RATS.  In 2009 I was on the science team and worked with both a robotic reconnaissance experiment using a robot called K10 and with the traverse planning for a 2-week long mission using the SEV (Space Exploration Vehicle) rovers.  Last year, I was on the crew of SEV A during a week-long geological traverse from the remote basecamp located at SP mountain to the main base camp at Black Point Lava Flow.  This year I am one of the four geologists working in the Deep Space Habitat and testing asteroid exploration scenarios using both the SEV rovers. 

We just finished week 1 of Desert RATS 2011.  My crew has spent most of our time working in the Deep Space Habitat (DSH), including a 3-day long stay we just completed yesterday.  Our time in the DSH has focused on evaluating the inside volume and configuration of the laboratory and living quarters for a long-duration mission, such as to an asteroid.

 Living in the DSH has been a fun experience and it is exciting to know that our work and opinions will have a role in shaping future exploration.  We begin each morning with a virtual briefing with Houston where we are given our day’s schedule of tasks, including some we can schedule ourselves.  Throughout the day our various tasks can include: exercising; doing education and public outreach events; maintenance and cleaning of the habitat interior; diagnosing and fixing equipment; medical operations; bioscience experiments; and analysis of rock samples collected during EVAs (extravehicular activities, or “spacewalks”) by our Crew B counterparts.

 I’ve spent most of my time doing the latter using the GeoLab (below).  The GeoLab comprises a glovebox in which samples can be handled and studied in a controlled environment.  On one end is mini-airlock through which new samples can be passed from the outside and other the other end is another mini-airlock for moving samples out once they have been worked on.  In between, are several stations for characterizing geologic materials: a scale; rulers for measuring; a camera for macroscopic images; a microscope for very detailed images; an X-ray fluorescence spectrometer for measuring the chemical composition of rocks; and a multispectral microscopic imager for taking detailed ultraviolet-visibile-infrared photographs of rocks to determine their mineral composition.  As I work on a sample, I’m in communication with a support team in Houston who guide me through procedures and who assimilate the data I provide them.  It’s been interesting working with the GeoLab because we are collecting real scientific data in a way similar to what we’d do at an asteroid or on the Moon or Mars.  I’ve even analyzed several samples that I collected myself on EVAs earlier last week!

 Life in the DSH during the last few days has also been interesting and fun.  My Crew A crewmates (Megan, Kjell, and Jon) and I have shared a spacious upstairs habitat that includes private bunks, a well-stocked galley, exercise equipment, work tables, computer workstations, and even a projector and screen for watching videos.  Living in close-quarters where crewmembers have to cooperate and closely interact is something any future long-duration spaceflight will require.  Our short stay in the DSH gave us a flavor for how suitable the current configuration is and what improvements could be made.

 I’m looking forward to the rest of Desert RATS 2011.  This week, Crews A and B effectively change places, with Crew A doing several days of EVA operations with the SEVs and Crew B trying out the DSH.  Although I enjoyed my time in the DSH, I love doing field geology and working with the rovers, so the next few days will be exciting.  I’m also very interested to learn about how Crew B interacts with the DSH.

DRATS..Dealing with bad weather

By Dr. Jacob Bleacher

Dr. Jacob Bleacher is a Planetary Geologist working at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. The 2011 field test is Jake’s third time as a Desert RATS crewmember, for which he is a part of Crew Bravo.


Both Crews Alpha and Bravo have spent several days and nights in the Deep Space Habitat (DSH) to assess how well this habitat can support science, maintenance, and medical operations, as well as the daily life of a crewmember, such as sleep, eating, and simply socializing with your team.  Crew Alpha was able to spend 3 nights in the DSH and provided the DSH support team with good feedback.  Yesterday I participated in a public outreach event in which I was asked whether or not we practice a possible impact event that could puncture the shell of the DSH.  Well, we had a decent chance to go through an unscheduled simulation of such an event.  If you are following our test you might have noticed that yesterday we experienced some severe weather that caused us to postpone our test for a full day.  Crew Bravo was in the DSH when this severe weather occurred and we experienced a minor breach of the DSH shell.  As such this was a perfect chance to assess the situation that I was asked about during my outreach event. 


The shell leak occurred in the crew quarters when Carolyn and I were conducting our post-sleep activities (eating breakfast, reviewing notes for the day, basically hanging out) in the loft.  As soon as we recognized a failure in the DSH outer shell we responded by communicating with our DSH support team to notify them of the event.  We also quickly determined where and how severe the leak was and worked to patch that leak as best as we could.  The DSH support team was able to provide us with information to assist us with our response to the leak.  Ultimately, after the day’s test activities had been postponed the support team came to our aid and conducted repairs.  This event demonstrates how important it is to maintain awareness of your surroundings during spaceflight, even if you are scheduled for a little rest and relaxation time.  You never know when an event like a meteorite impact or system failure could occur, and when working in such a harsh environment as deep space, you must always be ready to respond quickly and effectively.  Kudos to our DSH support team and designers for working with us to remedy this unscheduled “simulation” of a shell breach on the DSH. 

PLRP in the classroom

By multiple students from Shad Valley at the University of British Columbia

On July 19th and July 20th several members of the PLRP team teleconferenced with Shad Valley students at the University of British Columbia. The video conference included an Astronaut Q&A, presentation by David Pogue, NASA Crew Systems and Crew Survival Operations, and Nick Wilkinson, Web Development, Logistics Consulting and the man behind the infamous MAPPER.

Here is what they have to say.

Space! This word often reminds us of galaxies, black holes, nebulae and our Milky Way. Never would anyone consider a correlation between space and our tangible surroundings. During a span of two days, a group of 52 Shad Valley students are amazed by the revelation that experiments and research conducted on lakes of our very own planet Earth can assist us with analysis of our universe, beyond our solar system. With access to the Pavilion Lake Project’s website, we were able to thoroughly discover the history, mission statement and aims of this project. Furthermore, we were introduced to the gallery and blog of many talented and committed individuals working with the PLRP. The well-established website provided us with many photos, insights and interactive opportunities surrounding the project. During these two days, we had the opportunity to participate in the interactive activities including helping researchers with the filtration of photos of Kelly Lake and Pavilion Lake. Many of us signed up and thoroughly enjoyed contributing to a worthwhile research endeavor, meanwhile gaining precious insight into the importance of ecological unity. We would like to thank the team of the Pavilion Lake Research Project for their diligence and integrity in the pursuit of knowledge. Thank you for all your time and effort put into this presentation and we wish you the best of luck in the continuation of this project.

Warmest regards, Niki, Julie, Edward, and Danielle Shad Valley UBC 2011

During the informative lectures, we learned many new things. The most valuable knowledge we learned was that we can study microbialites that exist under water on earth, and apply it to further development in space. Being able to speak and listen to professionals in different areas of expertise was very eye-opening and broadened our horizons. Learning about DeepWorker submersibles and the MAPPER software allowed us to personally become more involved in the Pavilion Lake Research Project through the photo-tagging activity. Life in space is obviously quite different from life on Earth, and by being able to speak to a veteran astronaut, we gained further insight into these differences such as dealing with zero gravity, eating, sleeping and other regular daily activities.

By Richard Lin, Calvin Kwok and Paul Wong

MAPPER & microbialites

We think that the work that is being done in Pavilion Lake is really interesting because so much of our world is covered in water, but it remains a huge mystery. Underwater exploration is key in gaining a more complete understanding of our world as a whole. The interactive program is very effective in allowing us to gain better access to first hand information. It is good that the research is not limited solely to the researchers because it allows the general public to get involved in the project and become more knowledgeable about underwater ecosystems. In understanding this information we can begin to comprehend the importance of exploration.

From, Rebecca, Venissa, Patricia

When I’d firstly heard about PLRP, I thought it was like a normal project, but after two sessions, I found out that it was more than that. It was a really big opportunity to know about such project like that, talking to David, and listening to an astronaut’s speech. I have found the answers of my wonderings after that, so it wasn’t wasting of time.

Firas alruwashid

Over the past two days, we have had the pleasure to learn about the fascinating world that exists in Kelly Lake and Pavilion Lake, and the wonderful NASA operation that is currently underway. Before this operation, we had no idea what microbialites were, and how much potential they had in opening our doors to space exploration. In association with this, we found the Mapper website especially creative as it allows us to not only learn about the research that goes on in those lakes, but to interact with the data. However, our favourite experience during this two-day process was getting the astonishing opportunity to interact and correspond with a real NASA astronaut. We learned about the many joys, hardships, and dangers associated with leaving our atmosphere. Overall, this was a truly enlightening experience, and we thank you so much for the brilliant opportunity you provided for us.

Thanks again! Neel, Brian, and Kelly

As members of the Shad community we already have a keen interest in sciences. We are usually exposed to careers such as engineering or research, so it is beneficial to know that there are opportunities to work in other scientific fields. We have learned that there are places here on Earth that are filled with life and yet still unexplored. Exploring depths underwater to further understand space is something we would not have thought of, which is why we found the research done at Pavilion Lake so captivating. The presentation was informative and entertaining, although some technological difficulties made certain parts hard to understand (i.e., the videos). We really appreciated having the opportunity to speak with an astronaut and experts in varied fields.

Catherine & Sophie from QC Shad UBC ‘11

We really enjoyed the talks regarding NASA and the research projects conducted on Pavilion Lake & Kelly Lake. Microbialites were unknown to us before the lectures and learning about them proved to be insightful as it opened our eyes to the many mysteries that have yet to be discovered. The interactive program on the website was fun and educational; and taught us a lot about this newly introduced world of microbialites in a creative way. In addition, speaking to a NASA astronaut gave us the opportunity to listen to the real experiences of being in space – something not very many people have the chance to do. Overall, a very informative and practical experience.

Aaron Vincent, Katy Kemp & Daniel Zhang

Our experience with the PLRP was really informative and intriguing. The use of technology (e.g. Skype and the Mapper) was an innovative way of presenting information and allowing students to be interactive. Before taking part in this presentation, none of us knew about microbialites or the applicable relations between the NASA space program and under-water exploration such as the Pavilion and Kelly Lake projects. Our only issue was some technological malfunctions and lagging that took away from parts of the presentation, but overall, it was a fun and informative presentation in which we all learned a lot. We definitely recommend this presentation to the UBC Shads of 2012, whom will surely be as enthusiastic as we were.

Pia, James, and Amon Shad UBC 2011

I’m so excited, and I just can’t hide it!

By Darlene Lim – Principal investigator for Pavilion Lake Research Project

When Dana Lis, our PLRP Education and Public Outreach coordinator, asked me to write a blog about how I was feeling, the first word that popped into my mind was – EXCITED! After months of planning, testing and organizing we are finally ready to start our adventure, and I am so looking forward to it all.

We now have nearly 200 participants on the PLRP team, and each year thousands of work hours go into preparing for our DeepWorker Science and Exploration (DSE) field deployment. Planning starts pretty much as soon as we end the prior year’s field program. This year’s deployment at Kelly Lake is no exception.

What’s in store is our most ambitious and operationally complex field program yet?

Throughout this coming week’s activities, we will continue our scientific exploration of microbialite rich lakes using such exploration tools as DeepWorker single-person submersibles and SCUBA diving. This research builds upon the work we have been conducting at Pavilion Lake, which is about an hour’s drive away. However, the team’s research doesn’t stop there. Our DSE program requires the integration of scientific methods, and operational and technological advancements. From these real field science activities, NASA scientists are learning about what it takes to conduct safe, productive and discovery-based science in extreme environments. It is this knowledge that will form the basis of future exploration concepts for human research voyages to such destinations as Near Earth Objects (NEOs) and Mars. With the end of the Shuttle program, this and other analog programs, such as Desert RATS and NEEMO, truly becomes NASA’s bridge to future space flight.

The entire PLRP is personal passion, so it is not surprising that I am extremely excited to get our 2011 field program underway.  But beyond the research, I’m excited to see the incredible scientists, engineers, operations experts, astronauts, and teachers who have become part of the PLRP family.  I’m thrilled to meet new colleagues who join us for the first time this year, and to thank the Clinton and Kelly Lake community for all of the support and assistance that they have already provided to the PLRP.

I remember when I was a kid that if something got me really excited I would jump up and down with joy.  Well, you know how it is, you kinda have to park that behavior through Junior high and high school, so I did.  But I find myself rekindling that jumping behavior these days each time I hear about some new finding or technical development or outreach opportunity that the PLRP team members come up with.  Happily, my NASA colleagues seem ok with me bouncing up and down periodically.  It is a joy, it is a privilege, to be part of the PLRP family. And I hope that everyone reading our blogs will feel like you are part of the adventure too.

What’s Coming Up on the EPO End

By Dana Lis – Education and Public Outreach coordinator

Just down the canyon and a little to the side, from Pavilion Lake to Kelly Lake – Welcome! Another year has flown by and I find myself heading east again to see some of the crew that I have had the pleasure to kick out of the kitchen over the past 5 years, and meet some new friends as well. This year I do not have a blue Volkswagon Vanagon or orange Westfalia jammed to the roof with food for the team. I am somewhat pleased with not having to drag a weighed down VW on a long road trip and am impressed with the minimal equipment necessary for my new position as the EPO coordinator. In less than 24 hours, simply myself and my mac-apple-mac laptop (and road bike of course) will step off the plane and into the 2011 field season.

When Darlene Lim offered me the EPO position my first instinct was “ I do sport nutrition, not twitter – no thanks.” Always up for the learning opportunities of a new challenge I accepted the position and have been mostly thrilled ever since.  Now I can’t wait to continue to share the amazing science and exploration activities of 2011 with you. This field season will be full of great discoveries, and will highlight some of the best space science and exploration activities that happen on Earth!

Not only have we expanded to a new location and new community, but we welcome some talented new folks: The JSC Timeliners/Robotics group, Liza Coe from NASA-Ames and Sean Maday from Google.Check their bio’s out here. Jessica Parsons from NASA HQs, Raffy Pendery from Studio 98 and I will be working hard to keep you updated from the field – with blogs like this one, tweets, facebook posts, photos, and videos from the team’s daily science and exploration activities. We welcome questions about our research through any of these channels, and will endeavor to answer questions from you as soon as we can! You can also submit questions to Henry Bortman through Astrobiology Magazine.

Stay tuned for some great media coverage by BC Magazine, Discovery’s Daily Planet Series, New York Times, Earth Periodical and much more. Thanks for your interest in our project, and welcome back to the Pavilion Lake Research Project at Kelly Lake.

Once I land in field camp I will update on the DeepWorker arrival, barge set up and the first DW flight of 2011. Keep checking in.