When astronauts return to Earth, they often talk about the deep and awe-inspiring experience they had when they looked down on our little blue planet. "All I know is that I was stunned in a way that was totally unexpected," says NASA astronaut Nicole Stott, Inverse. "I felt connected," repeated Mae Jemison. "For me it was a connection back to the earth. It was a connection with the rest of the universe."
Known as the synoptic effect, this mental shift in consciousness can have a great influence on astronauts as they enter the space of the first walk. But while spaceflight can be wonderful, exciting and a dream come true for many astronauts, it is not without the risk of negative behavioral and psychological effects.
Whether an astronaut is heading up to the ISS (International Space Station) or on their way to Mars in a decade, space occupation puts crews in an extreme environment with lots of unique stressors on board. This can lead to homelessness, isolation, depression, boredom and conflict with other crew members. Spaceflight is not just about adventure in slender rockets ̵
Although the astronauts' mental health was less worried in the early days of space, fortunately NASA, ESA and space agencies all over the world have been shifted to customs spaceflight can assume mental well-being since the 1990s.
And they must be. Now, NASA is planning to send astronauts to Mars by 2030 (or not long after), which is even more reason to consider the astronauts' health and well-being – a mission to Mars will be longer and more stressful than anyone else.
But how can space agencies make sure that the astronauts' well-being is prioritized on such high-pressure missions that go where no one has gone before?
Begin as You Think to Go
One way to ensure astronauts is calmly under pressure and dealing with conflicts is to choose the most competent candidates.
Many of the people who do that as astronauts have come from roles that are extremely high stress – pilots, doctors, engineers. They are often chosen because they can cope with stressful circumstances and solve problems under enormous amounts of pressure.
"Knowledge of human psychology has come to the point that picking the right people for a Mars mission is no longer a challenge," wrote Stephen Petranek in how we live on Mars. "We are very good at identifying the right people to become commercial pilots, Navy SEALs and others who occupy critical attitudes where stress, judgment and intelligence meet."
According to a report from the Human Research Program (HRP) at NASA Since 1959, the space agency has conducted intensive psychiatric screening to identify signs of mental illness which could endanger the success of a mission.
Anyone identified as likely to have a behavioral or psychiatric problem during the flight is removed from the selection process. This is called the & # 39; selection process & # 39 ;. Conversely, the most suitable ones are identified as astronauts, this is called & # 39; select-in & # 39 ;.
Even those who do it as astronauts are routinely tested and assessed. The report describes annual assessments performed by a crew surgeon and a psychiatrist at the Johnson Space Center (JSC) Flight Medicine Clinic. They consist of "spaceflight experiences, workload, fatigue, sleep, peer relationships, family, challenges, goals and future plans."
In the future, this process could be further streamlined. NASA is currently funding research to find out whether some biomarkers in a potential astronaut's body could mark an increased stress response or whether certain genes could signal disturbed sleep patterns. This means that one day the astronaut's election process may involve a DNA test.
There are no & # 39; I & # 39; in TEAM
It's not just about ensuring that individuals are psychologically healthy and well-groomed, but how the whole crew works and lives together – especially for long periods
Gary Beven, a rump psychiatrist at NASA, told io9: "One misconception is a concern or theory that space environment can be inherently harmful or dangerous, from a psychological point of view. "
He continued that "All previously reported behavioral health problems have been shown to occur due to common ground issues. For example, placing potentially personable herds conflicts in a smaller space station environment with few recreational outlets."
This means that it is possible to simulate space missions here on Earth to find out what causes conflict – and what can be done to prevent it.
NASA runs an analog mission called HERA here on Earth. It involves four astronauts living in a limited space for 45 days to find out how people are afflicted with isolation and confinement.
Although the HERA missions have taken place in four years, Northwestern researchers have recently begun developing a predictive model designed to help NASA anticipate crew members' problems. The focus will be on addressing crew compatibility, the events that lead to communication crashes, how to work best in teams and designing workflows to keep astronauts engaged.
Likewise, Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation or HI-SEAS runs longer mission simulations for a whole year in a 1,200 square foot habitat in Hawaii's Mauna Loa volcano.
The false astronauts live like they are on Mars. They are isolated, there is a delay in communication, and they have showers in the last few seconds – they even need to put on space clothes when they go outside the airlock.
The HI-SEAS researchers have found that most herds end up fighting at some point during the experiment. But there are also many opportunities to analyze why conflicts arise and create a better recipe for success in the future.
In how we live on Mars, Angelo Vermeulen, a space system researcher said, "It all boils down to the crew's choice. You have to match skills as well as psychological compatibility. You can quickly see if the problems will evolve just by putting people together for a week and give them something challenging to do. "
" If problems come, you will usually see them, "Vermeulen said. "There is never a warranty problem will not occur over a long period. But you should start with a crew who explicitly likes to work together and are resilient."
However, these simulated missions have been criticized. It's hard to say whether the full psychological effect of space travel can ever be replicated on Earth – all the participants know they're still on the planet. There may be more reason to worry in space, but conversely, stress levels may decrease as an astronaut adjusts to their new environment and realizes that they are in it for long-distance.
When the room feels lonely
NASA research suggests that social support is most effective when it comes to what the astronaut feels stressed about. If there is a conflict on board, a conversation with the rest of the crew will help. But if someone is missing their children or spouses, it is most comforting to talk directly to them.
Fortunately, the internet (IP) phone is regularly used on board the ISS and other recent missions. connects astronauts with their friends and family.
Many astronauts also find sharing videos, conducting experiments, and making a music video in the outer space of social media can also combat feelings of isolation. A tweet cannot be the same as an intimate chat with close friends and family, but it meets a need to feel connected to the Earth and can also give a greater sense of purpose – they educate, inspire and entertain fans all over the world.
As aircraft grow longer, loneliness and secretion are likely to become more of a problem – especially since there is a longer delay between Earth communication, which can be 45 minutes or more than one hour.
One possibility might be to use virtual reality to help the astronauts feel calm and more connected to home life. NASA's Human Research Program (HRP) proposes to add virtual windows to actual windows to replace the lost view of the earth or use VR technology to create environments along with true plants for earth astronauts with well-known natural images.