If space didn't kill them, astronauts still had to train for survival in deserts and jungles

NASA scientists faced innumerable challenges in their efforts to prepare the first astronauts for the rigors and dangers of spaceflight. Along with endless varieties of technical training, astronauts also had to learn to survive in the wilderness should their reentry craft land off target.

Beginning with the original "Mercury Seven" in 1960, astronauts were brought to Stead Air Force Base in Nevada to practice desert survival techniques, crafting improvised shelters and clothing out of parachutes.

19 PHOTOS
Famous astronauts practicing desert survival techniques
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Famous astronauts practicing desert survival techniques

1960

The original "Mercury Seven" astronauts, L. Gordon Cooper, M. Scott Carpenter, John Glenn, Alan Shepard, Virgil I. Grissom, Walter Schirra and Donald K. Slayton wear clothing fashioned from parachutes during desert survival training at Stead Air Force Base in Nevada.

(Photo via NASA)

Aug. 13, 1964

Frank Borman, Neil Armstrong, John Young and Deke Slayton during desert survival training in Nevada.

(Photo via NASA)

1960

(Photo via NASA)

August 1967

Alfred M. Worden uses a mirror to flash signals for search aircraft.

(Photo via NASA)

Aug. 14, 1967

Air Force Col. Chester Bohart poses with astronauts John L. Swigert, Thomas K Mattingly and Charles M. Duke, Jr.

(Photo via NASA)

1964

Astronauts pose during desert training at Stead Air Force Base in Nevada. Front row: Frank Borman; James A. Lovell; John W. Young; Charles Conrad; James A. McDivitt and Edward H. White. Back row: Ray Zedehar (Astronaut Training Officer); Thomas P. Stafford; Donald K. Slayton; Neil A. Armstrong and Elliot M. See.

(Photo via Bettman/Getty Images)

August 1964

Jack Lousma, Don Lind and William Pogue pass the time in an improvised shelter.

(Photo via NASA)

Edward H. White

(Photo via Bettman/Getty Images)

James A. Lovell

(Photo via Bettman/Getty Images)

Donald K. Slayton

(Photo via Bettman/Getty Images)

John W. Young

(Photo via Bettman/Getty Images)

1964

Frank Borman

(Photo via Bettman/Getty Images)

1964

(Photo via NASA)

June 3, 1963

Astronauts sample wild-caught food during jungle survival training in Panama.

(Photo via Bettman/Getty Images)

June 10, 1963

Astronauts listen to a lecture on jungle survival.

(Photo via Getty Images)

July 1967

Alfred Worden, Harrison Schmitt and Ronald Evans gather leaves and branches to build a lean-to.

(Photo via NASA)

1963

Mercury astronauts learn jungle survival techniques in Panama.

(Photo via NASA)

1963

John Glenn and Neil Armstrong during jungle survival training in Panama.

(Photo via NASA/Getty Images)

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Astronauts were also trained to build shelters, find food and water and identify venomous snakes in the jungles of Panama.

The American, European and Russian space agencies continue to practice wilderness survival training today, routinely stranding candidates for space missions in scorching deserts, frozen forests and empty oceans — just in case.

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