Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin walked on the moon in 1969. Five decades later, we are witnessing the advent of space tourism. It’s made possible by private companies such as SpaceX and Virgin Galactic. The cost of space tourism is prohibitive for most people at the moment. It also has many physical and psychological demands. NASA worried about “space madness” when astronauts first went into orbit. Will modern space tourists have to fear this malady?
What is Space Madness?
NASA psychiatrists feared the worst when they assessed America’s first astronauts. They thought that some of these men would end up being suicidal or sexual aberrants. Or that they would be impulsive thrill-seekers.
Space Madness is a mental illness that NASA thought could become a problem. They figured it would arise from the closed-in isolation in space. After all, the astronauts were inside a cramped spacecraft high above the earth. They also thought that humans’ first experience with microgravity could bring it on.
These fears proved unfounded. US astronauts and their Russian cosmonaut counterparts kept their cool during extended missions. They stayed sane aboard Mir, Skylab, and the International Space Station. Space madness turned out to be the stuff of Hollywood with no incidence among actual people.
Space Psychology: Why It’s Important
Now space travel companies are talking about manned visits to Mars. So, NASA needs to know how long-haul travel will affect our mental health. A typical round trip to Mars might last about three years. Travelers will be in a small space with a group of people for a very long time.
For now, NASA is developing computer programs to help their astronauts. These programs will help them deal with depression and conflicts aboard the spaceship. They are also testing mind-enhancing supplements to improve energy, mood, and memory.
While NASA makes these preparations, travel companies are getting ready to capitalize. They’re looking at a phenomenon known as the “Overview Effect.” If you’re planning galactic travel, nothing may prepare you for the Overview Effect. It’s the profound, almost religious experience of seeing the world from outer space. It’s what prompted Erik Lindbergh to become a trustee of the X Prize Foundation. Erik is the grandson of Charles Lindbergh. The X Prize Foundation is an initiative to bring private citizens to space.
Getting Your Head Right for Space Travel
You can prepare yourself for your galactic tour. Here are a few things you can do:
- Develop a sense of humor. It diffuses tensions and keeps the group laughing.
- Learn to cope with others in confined environments. You can try things like carpooling, especially for long trips.
- Watch space movies such as Star Trek and Space Odyssey. Though based on fantasy, they will give you an idea of what to expect.
You will go through a brief but rigorous training program for your space journey. It’s like the ones that astronauts undergo, but for a much shorter time span. If your children are showing interest in galactic travel, sign them up for space camp. Programs for adults and corporate retreats are also increasing in popularity.
Astronauts spend hundreds of hours practicing for spacewalks. Outer space is beautiful, but it takes a physical and mental toll. Follow the recommendations listed here and you’ll be sure to have a better space travel experience.