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.
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.