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Astronaut Survival School
by U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Michael Needham
February 25, 2022

Ten NASA astronaut candidates trained with U.S. Army Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape instructors as part of the astronaut candidate land survival course during February 2022 at the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence.

NASA Astronauts learn to build various types of improvised shelter using a poncho and natural materials during survival training at Fort Rucker, Alabama, February 9, 2022. They are learning basic survival training along with critical life saving techniques for austere conditions that are key to survival. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Army photos by 2nd Lt. Michael Needham)The astronauts candidates underwent the training in order to learn the needed survival skills should they end up in a situation where they need to be able to survive off the land for several days.

“The reason we send our new astronauts to survival training is to learn practical skills and certain soft skills they need to be working on,” said Shannon Walker, NASA candidate class supervisor. “Some of the aircraft we train on comes equipped with an ejection seat and should something go wrong while we are out training they may to be able to survive for a while before they can be rescued.”

The astronauts were trained through the paces of simulating ejecting from an aircraft in a remote location. They learned to use the resources at hand in order to construct shelter, gather food and water, survival medicine, signaling, and land navigation.

“Global survival is the same no matter where you are, all the principals of shelter, procurement, water purification are the same for everyone,” said Mike C., lead course instructor. “This training is necessary for anyone serving in the military or a government agency that could possibly have a high risk of isolation and or evasion.”

The astronaut candidates trained as a group for the majority of survival training. Some of the task really tested the group’s ability to work as a team in order to complete the training objective.

“When you live on the space station you are in an extreme environment,” said Walker “Within our office we have a set of skills we call expeditionary behavior skills that consist of effective communication, self-care and team care, and small living skills because it’s an international environment where you live and interact with people from other cultures.”

The astronaut candidates got their hands dirty learning how to survive in a remote location. Although technology is great and advancements are made daily, the ability to survive on minimal supplies can be the difference between life and death in an isolation situation.

“From day one we have had to tailor the training program to fit NASA’s needs,” said Mike C. “The astronaut candidates heard they were going through SERE school ... for this training we focused primarily on the survival portion.”

“I definitely see people learning skills they didn’t already have”, Walker said of Astronaut Candidate Class 10-14. “This is a chance for the astronaut candidates to really get to know themselves, know how they operate under stressful environments, because space can be a very stressful environment”

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