Sunday, May 22, 2011

BTS-1 Crash Landing into the Louisiana Swamp

Welcome back to my review of the BTS-1 mission, part 3. "What did I miss?" you might ask? Well, this Launch Trailer sums it up!

Or then you can read my Launch Blog and my Inflight experience write-up.

Ok, now that you are all up-to-BTS1; So after we sent our last communication back, we landed in the swampy grass/water of the Sabine Wildlife Refuge. The landing wasn't as hard as expected but the chute dragged us a few feet. Skye Blue was going "Wheee Wheee Wheee". We did a quick crew check and we were all fine. Then it was time to check our hardware and "Inspiration" really held up well. Just at that time the last of the three cameras stopped taking images. The two video cameras had run out of battery power even before the balloon popped.

So, here we were. Somewhere inside this wildlife refuge, much further away from where the predicted landing site for the day would be. We had no idea how close or far away the rescue team was. Luckily Fuzz brought some extra astronaut food and so we just started to get comfy and hunkered down.

We were not worried about our situation, despite the fact that we didn't really know where we were, what kind of environment we were in and when we would be found. See, astronauts go through a lot of training and one important part is survival training.

Astronauts have to be prepared and ready for almost everything and any situation in space. But not only there. Each trip to space starts and ends on Earth. Spacecrafts leaving for the ISS may encounter a problem after launch and may be forced to come down in the sea, desert, tropical rain forest or a glacier; summer or winter.
 Survival training in the wilderness near Brunswick, Maine. In the foreground, left to right, astronaut candidates James P. Dutton Jr., Akihiko Hoshide, Dorothy M. Metcalf-Lindenburger, and Satoshi Furukawa use a makeshift gurney to extract fellow astronaut candidate Robert S. Kimbrough from the woods. In the back, Joseph M. Acaba, Richard R. Arnold II, Robert L. Satcher Jr. and Thomas H. Marshburn carry Christopher J. Cassidy. Hoshide and Furukawa represent the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

But there is more to it. Our astronauts train and fly the T-38 Talon aircraft a minimum of 48 hours per year to maintain aviation and navigation proficiency. Their flights takes them over mountains, deserts and water. If they had to eject from the aircraft, the may have to fend for themselves for at least a few hours and possibly longer.

Furthermore, the training in the wilderness also provides an unique and challenging team building environment. Astronaut candidates (ASCAN) spend a lot of time together. These ASCANs bring a wide variety of experiences, ideas and philosophies together and learning teamwork and leadership skills when dealing with adverse situation out in the nature is extremely valuable.


Three astronauts float down river during training at the Panama Jungle 
Survival School. Left to right, are Astronauts Edgar D. Mitchell, Ronald E. 
Evans, and Scientist-Astronaut Harrison H. Schmitt.   
So what kind of training did we go through? Well, we learned about survival medicine, signals, fire craft and navigations. We also learned about working with rationed materials to create shelter. Then we were instructed on how to safely climb and descend high cliffs, crossing rivers and how to pick your food out in the nature. Did you know that cupcakes actually don't grow on trees?

ESA Astronauts being introduced to climbing techniques
by a professional mountaineer during survival training, June 2010
Here we were, the BTS-1 crew inside the Sabine Wildlife Refuge. Apparently on launch/landing day, our ground crew came looking for us. They managed to find a boat, they managed to get close to our location, set foot onto the swamp, wade through the swamp, past the gators and through the mosquito swarms - but they just could not find and reach us.

For us it was time to make a fire and start singing camp fire songs. It would be a few days until we saw anyone else besides the three of us, the gators and some other very interesting animals...

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