Back in the good old days, going on a space mission meant training, training and more training¿in simulators. But these days NASA makes sure astronauts also spend time at sleep-away camp with a few fellow astronauts, dining outdoors and sleeping under the stars. Okay, it's a little rougher than roasting marshmallows and telling ghost stories. In fact, it makes TV's Survivor look like a day at Six Flags. The campsite: Cold Lake in Alberta, Canada. "It's really cold, -30 degrees Fahrenheit. It gets your attention," says NASA astronaut Andrew Thomas.
Thomas put the program together in 1999, after pitching his tent for four and half months on Russia's Mir space station. Like the six other Americans sent to Mir, Thomas felt culturally isolated. "So I thought it wise to develop a program to prepare astronauts for interpersonal issues on long space flights," he explains.
This article was originally published with the title Astronaut Boot Camp.