Panic in space can be deadly. Here’s how astronauts train to stay alive in emergencies

In this episode of a series on astronaut training from the European Space Agency’s YouTube channel, Matthias Maurer explains what survival courses are like. That, despite what you may think, are more about how to survive in inhospitable land, or in the sea, after having returned from space. Because the landing place is not always right.

I did not remember that something similar had already happened to the legendary Aleksei Leonov: a 46-second delay in re-entry diverted Voskhod 2 386 km from the planned point, to an inhospitable forest near Solikamsk. Although they located it more or less soon, access to the exact place was very complicated, so they spent about 24 to -5°C and without heating. In another delicate situation, Soyuz 23 in turn fell on the semi-frozen lake of Tengiz, instead of making it to land. Nine hours they waited painfully until a helicopter arrived.

As Maurer explains, the training – in places as cold as Russia or Sweden – includes the typical survival in extreme conditions when someone is in those places and that we know from characters like Bear Grylls: build shelter, cut wood, light a fire… The capsules They carry tools and formerly also the mythical survival pistol, which as is known is not so much for the problems that may exist in space but to defend against wild animals.

Other training includes moving through a kind of narrow labyrinth like laboratory rats in dark and harsh conditions, putting out fires and of course a whole variety of techniques for survival on the high seas: launching boats, swimming in low temperatures, with strong waves… Part of the they did together with the Chinese taikonauts. Here, in addition to the dye to mark the position in the water, perhaps the most striking thing is the shark repellent that is also in the survival kits. Something you never know when you’re going to need.