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Astronaut Candidates 2004: | Home | Journals
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Astronaut Candidates 2004
IMAGE: Astronaut candidates assemble a signal fire
NASA astronaut candidate James P. Dutton Jr. (left), Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and NASA educator astronaut Dorothy M. Metcalf-Lindenburger assemble a signal fire during 2004 ASCAN land survival training in the wilderness of Maine.
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Astronaut Candidates 2004 - Training Journals

Journal #5
August 23 - August 27, 2004

The week of land survival training in Rangeley, Maine, was fantastic. We learned a lot and had fun in the process.

The T-38 jet will soon become our primary trainer for space flight readiness. The skills we develop while training in the T-38 will be used when we work in space. Since we will spend many hours in the T-38, we need to know how to survive in case we are forced to eject from the plane or perform an emergency landing. We are now better prepared to handle an emergency situation. Not only did we learn survival skills, but we also bonded as a team and learned to work together under difficult conditions. This, too, will be invaluable when we find ourselves in space.

We arrived at Brunswick Naval Air Station late Sunday night. We awoke early the next morning to get our limited gear which included a field jacket, poncho, poncho liner, ground tarp, compass, and 2 canteens. We then began the 3-hour van ride to Alpha Base near Rangeley. Upon arrival, we were given one “MRE” – a military issue meal ready-to-eat, and shown the nearby stream to get water. We used iodine tablets to purify the water so we could drink it safely. We then were sent to the classroom for various presentations on finding or trapping food and water, fire starting, signaling, shelter building, dealing with medical emergencies, and land navigation (figuring out where you are and where you need to go using a map and a compass). We were then divided into groups of 3-4 and spent the night in small wooden shelters.

The next day we had a few more classes and then went to work putting what we had learned into practice. We made snares (we learned pretty cool ways to trap squirrels and rabbits if necessary in a survival situation, although no one caught any on this trip), built fires, prepared and drank spruce tree tea, and built a shelter with a parachute. Again, we were given one MRE for the day. They were actually quite good, especially when you are hungry. Each one has a main meal (spaghetti, chicken with noodles, etc.), bread or crackers, a spread such as cheese or jelly, a dessert such as pound cake, and if you get lucky maybe a pack of chocolate candy. We were able to heat our food through a chemical reaction involving water. Some of our military classmates taught us ways to make the meals even better by mixing things together like the cocoa powder, sugar, and coffee creamer to make a pudding.

The next day began with more practical training including land navigation. Around 1 p.m. we were given coordinates on a map and were told we had until 5 p.m. to get there in order to be rescued. This was the start of our “final exam.” All of the teams started in different locations and had to find the rendezvous point. It was no easy task making your way through the dense forest. However, we all made it in time. Instead of being picked up by our rescuers, we were told that they were not able to come after all and that we would have to spend the night. We would have to put into use all that we had learned. Each group quickly began making temporary shelters. Once that was done, we started a fire and had dinner together. It was great talking and looking at the stars and seeing satellites and shooting stars pass overhead. The moon was almost full and we dreamed of some day actually walking on the moon.

Early the next morning we were awakened by a whistle indicating that there was a medical emergency. Two of our classmates were pretending to be injured. The test continued. We had to see what was wrong with them and find a way to get them to the pick-up point. It was no easy task at 5:30 in the morning. We made litters using branches and ponchos to carry them out, and by working as a team we made it on time.

As we look back over the week, the most important lesson we learned is that when it comes to survival, common sense and a good imagination can save your life (and make a pretty good frosting for the pound cake).

- The Astronaut Candidate Class of 2004


Curator: Kim Dismukes | Responsible NASA Official: John Ira Petty | Updated: 03/25/2005
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