The astronaut candidates continue their 6 day trek through the desert toward Amarillo, Texas. Each day, each team of 6 rotates to have a new team leader. It's the leader's job to decide meal plans, delegate tasks, decide how much distance to travel, when to rest and so on. Everyone is getting exhausted, but everyone is still determined to become a full-fledged astronaut. Nitta is always on his phone during breaks, speaking with his mother about his brother. It seems that Nitta does not have good relations with his brother, and had lost his temper with him in the past.
Nitta The Leader
Team E, led on the first day by Kenji, find their food cache and set up camp for the night. Kenji hoped to make a little more progress for the day, but decides to call it a day. Mutta and Kenji set up the tent, Nitta and Amanti set up a fire while Serika and Ena prepare dinner. Mutta figures that this survival exercise serves 2 purposes: 1. To prepare for if an astronaut lands in a far-off area upon re-entering the atmosphere and 2. To build teamwork skills. Lowry and Mike, as their Team's advisers follow them along in their SUV, and video-tape them. The video is fed to monitors in NASA's office, where Vincent and Larry can monitor each team's progress.
Vincent talks to Larry about why he decided to keep ASCANs from the same country together in the same team. Vincent says that it is important for astronauts to realize early on that they are representing their country. Also competition between countries is good because it can lead to significant progress in space exploration. Larry points to the rapid developments in the 80s due to competition between the U.S. and Russia as evidence of this.
Sitting around the campfire together, Team E learns from Mike that the results are in and their team progressed the least compared to the other teams, only walking 11.2 km on the first day. And there is a punishment for a single team member of the team that is last each day, but the leader cannot be punished. Mutta volunteers to take the punishment for them. The punishment is to stand at attention for 1 hour. Kenji apologizes later to Mutta, thinking that it is his own fault as leader that their team fell behind. Mutta reassures Kenji and the team enjoys a beautiful view of the clear sky full of stars. Mutta wonders if this is what it feels like to be on the Moon.
On Day 4 of survival training, Nitta is the leader and everyone is feeling really exhausted. They have walked 35 kilometers, so they are half-way to Amarillo. Ena trips over herself, Nitta doesn't catch this and seems to be getting irritated, thinking that they should keep pushing ahead. Mutta decides they should take another break. It turns out that since Team E (Mutta's team) has been in last place each day, so they have had punishment each day. During their break, Nitta is on the phone again with his mother (supposedly). His mom tells Nitta that his brother might call him tomorrow if he feels up to it. His mother also warns Nitta not to be too harsh, no yelling. Nitta reassures her and says he has changed and won't lose his temper.
Nearing the end of Day 4, they find their food crate. Nitta urges his teammates to carry the food with them and walk a little further before setting up camp. Nitta comments how some have been astronauts for 10 years before going to space, and some only for a few years like Mutta's brother Hibito. Nitta cannot understand why some get chosen to go to space over others, so they should try to rank first and draw attention to themselves early on. Mutta says that his brother Hibito has nothing to do with this. Then Nitta says, "How long are you going to keep following your brother?" at which point Mutta tackles Nitta to the ground. Everyone is shocked. It turns out there was a poisonous rattlesnake behind the food crate, and Mutta tackled Nitta away from it to make sure he was safe. The rattlesnake moves away, and Mike advises them that they will probably encounter more poisonous snakes along their trek and also coyotes. Mike then gives the leader a handgun to fend off against snakes and coyotes if necessary.
On Day 5 Mutta is now the leader, so he is entrusted with the handgun. Thanks to Nitta's plan to press on after finding their food cache, they moved up to 4th place. And Mutta is optimistic that they will move up to third place by the end of the day. Near the end of their day, Nitta stops walking for some reason. He apologizes to everyone and says that he has to go back to find his cell-phone.
Points of Interest
- Larry comments that Vincent's expressionless demeanor makes him look like a Moai statue.
- Nitta advises Mutta that he should make sure his socks don't get wet, as that will increase the chances of catching a cold.
- The leaders for Team A for the first three days were as follows: Kenji, Serika and Ena (in that order).