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NASA survival training: When astronauts had to train for survival in deserts and jungles, 1960s


All NASA astronaut groups were given a series of survival courses to prepare them for expected landings in remote, inhospitable areas. The purpose of preparing the crew in this way was to give them the confidence and ability to deal with an emergency or off-nominal landing situation.

The training was divided into three phases. First, instructors provided lectures and briefings in survival techniques for each type of environment.

This was followed by a demonstration of survival methods, which were first explained and then practiced. Finally, a field exercise was conducted for the group to apply both academic and practical training in a simulated survival situation.

In addition to basic technical training, the astronauts will learn to survive in the wild if their re-entry craft turns away from the target. They practiced desert survival techniques, building improvised shelters and clothing from parachutes. They were also trained to build shelter, find food and water, and identify venomous snakes in the forests.



In 1957, the Soviet Union launched the satellite Sputnik, and the space race was on. The victory of the Soviet Union shocked the American people and prompted a strong reaction in the federal government to ensure that the United States was not left behind by its communist rival.

Two years later, during the administration of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, a new space program, Project Mercury, was launched. Seven men were selected to participate in the program: Scott Carpenter, Leroy Gordon Cooper, John Glenn Jr., Virgil "Gus" Grissom, Walter Schirra Jr., Alan Shepard Jr., and Donald "Deke" Slayton. The goal of Project Mercury was to orbit a manned spacecraft around Earth, test astronauts' ability to function in space, and safely recover astronauts and spacecraft.

President Kennedy understood the need to restore America's confidence and intended not only to match the Soviets, but to overtake them. On May 25, 1961, he stood before Congress to deliver a special message on "urgent national needs".

He called for an additional $7 billion to $9 billion over the next five years for the space program, declaring that "this nation must achieve the goal of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely before the decade ends." must commit ourselves to achieve the Earth." President Kennedy set out to this dramatic goal as a means to focus and mobilize the nation's backward space efforts.

On February 20, 1962, John Glenn Jr. became the first American to orbit the Earth. Launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, the Friendship 7 capsule carrying Glenn reached a maximum altitude of 162 miles and an orbital velocity of 17,500 mph.

After more than four hours in space, orbiting Earth three times, Glenn propelled Friendship 7 back into the atmosphere and landed in the Atlantic Ocean near Bermuda.



As space exploration continued into the 1960s, the United States was headed toward the Moon. Project Gemini was NASA's second spaceflight program.

Its goal was to complete a spacecraft entry and re-entry maneuver and to further test how individuals are affected by longer periods of space travel.

The Apollo program followed Project Gemini. Its goal was to land humans on the Moon and assure their safe return to Earth, and on July 20, 1969, the Apollo 11 astronauts—Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin Jr.—landed on the Moon.




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