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Preparing astronauts for the mental and emotional challenges of deep space

But the floating freedom that non-gravity provides also imposes a number of restrictions on the human body and soul.

Short spaceflights have evolved from the early Mercury and Apollo missions to space travel of six months or more aboard the International Space Station. The floating lab has provided the perfect backdrop for scientists trying to understand what really happens to every aspect of the human body in the space environment – radiation, zero gravity, everything.

“What on Earth was missing when you were away for a year?” asked Mason Kelly.

– The weather of course. Rain, sun and wind, Kelly said. Then you miss the people who are important to you, your family, and your friends.

As NASA plans to return people to the Moon through the Artemis program and eventually land on Mars, there is growing interest in the effects of long-distance, deep-sea travel.

The big question some scientists are asking is whether people are mentally and emotionally prepared for such a big leap. In short, how will we deal with it?

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The Study 2021 Participants lived in a simulation of weightlessness for about two months by resting in a special bed with their heads bent at a 6-degree angle. The tilt creates a vertical shift in body fluids that astronauts experience in zero gravity.

Participants were regularly asked to complete the astronauts’ cognitive tests on memory, risk taking, emotional recognition, and spatial orientation.

The researchers wanted to test whether testing 30 minutes a day with artificial gravity, either one at a time or in five-minute bouts, could prevent negative effects. While study participants experienced an initial cognitive decline during their tests, this stabilized and did not last for 60 days.

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But the speed of emotion recognition deteriorated overall. During the tests, they were more likely to see their facial expressions as angry rather than happy or neutral.

“Long-distance astronauts, such as those participating in the research, will spend long periods in microgravity confined to a small space with a few other astronauts,” said Matthias Basner, a professor in the study’s university’s department of psychiatry. . Pennsylvania Perlman. School of Medicine.

“The astronauts’ ability to correctly ‘read’ each other’s emotional manifestations will be of paramount importance for effective teamwork and mission success. Our findings suggest that astronauts’ ability may be affected over time.”

It was not clear in the study whether this impairment resulted from simulating the lack of gravity or the confinement and isolation that the participants experienced for 60 days.

A separate study was published in 2021 ActaspaceHe developed a mental health checklist based on the stressors of astronauts – which is also shared by those who spend months at Antarctic research stations.

These two extreme environments – the edge of space and the world – cause a lack of privacy, a changing cycle of light and dark, solitude, solitude, unanimity, and long-term separation from family and friends.

Candice Alfano, a professor of psychology at the University of Houston, and her team developed the checklist for a self-report to track changes in mental health. The biggest change in the two Antarctic stations was a decrease in positive emotions from the beginning to the end of their nine-month stay, without causing a “rebound” effect, even when they were about to return home.

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Participants also used less effective strategies for promoting positive emotions.

“Interventions and countermeasures to promote positive emotions can be critical to reducing psychological risks in extreme circumstances,” Alfano said.

Protect explorers away from home

One of the main goals of astronauts is to stay healthy and fit while on their adventure away from home NASA’s Human Research Program. In the past, the program has developed countermeasures to help astronauts combat muscle and bone loss, such as daily exercise on the space station.

Researchers are actively studying the idea of ​​how purposeful work can bring mission crews together. When astronauts work As a team, either on the space station or in a Mars simulator environment on earth, working together for a common goal.

And when they are done with their work, they can spend time together watching movies or enjoying fun activities to overcome feelings of isolation.

However, a mission to Mars, which could take months or years, depending on the design of the spacecraft, could lead to a sense of unanimity and confinement. And the frequent contact with Mission Control and loved ones on Earth will be more stormy the further away from Earth.

Astronauts celebrate record-breaking Chilean harvest in space with taco night

“We need to make sure we have some kind of ad hoc protocol and things that the crew needs,” Alexandra Whitmer, an element researcher with the Human Research Program, told CNN in a 2021 interview. “It is very important for us to understand the individuals who will be involved in this mission.”

While some staff members can bring excitement and achievement from working on science experiments, others need to tinker with other tasks. Previous search is already selected Main features that may be required in a deep space explorerLike self sufficiency and problem solving.

One of the amazing discoveries on the space station is how food – and crop production – raises the morale of the crew while maintaining a very important tangible connection to your home.

avoid & # 39;  time difference & # 39;  Life in space could help astronauts thrive on Mars
Unsurprisingly Space food should be a safe and stable source of food And it still tastes good. However, actively growing vegetables was a rewarding and delicious experience for the former space station crews.
Astronauts report loyalty to green leafy plants, radish and care hatching Chili pepper And watching the plants grow, which will eventually lead to edible capital.

HRP scientists wondered if the complacency could last. When astronauts are like this Scott Kelly or Christina Koch have returned to Earth after a long spaceflight and talked about waiting to feel the rain or the ocean waves again.

Guided imagery and virtual reality capabilities could be a necessary part of future deep space flights to remind astronauts of their sensory marbleUntil it shrinks out of sight.