PSYCHOLOGY OF SPACE TRAVEL AND HOW IT HAS A BIGGER IMPACT ON DEEP SPACE EXPLORATION:

The psychology of Space travel came into existence because Space travel takes the human body out of its natural habitat to harsh environment.

Space Travel Story

The teacher in a class of astronomy begins the lecture by penning down a date on the blackboard of the class, further asking the students about its specialty and the reason behind her writing down the date at the beginning of the class.

20th July 1969.

“What’s so special about that date?”, asks the teacher.

Students scratch their heads trying to remember what this date signifies?

“That’s not even any of our freedom fighter’s birthday, is it?”, cites a student.

Then the teacher slowly showed the students through the projector an image of a man with some suit on, having a flag in his hand in a black and white background. All of a sudden, the students recognized the image and answered the teacher.

“It’s the moon landing picture, isn’t it?”

“Yes, it is.”

The teacher reminds the students how listening to the radio during the moon landing was somewhat a great experience in her lifetime and how it inspired her at that time to strive to be an astronaut in her life. Though she couldn’t become one, she is now contented with her job of teaching students about astronomy and space travel with the same enthusiasm and zeal for almost two decades.

She explains, “This is the day on which the American astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stepped their feet on the lunar soil for the first time ever in the history of humankind.”

The students of the class were in the 12th standard, so they didn’t have that much depth in astronomy. But they had an interest, and the most important thing to have to learn more: curiosity.

Someone asked, “Ma’am, how long would it have taken for the astronauts to reach to the surface of the moon?”

“It took around six days to reach there.”, replied the teacher.

“What! Six days! Were they in that spaceship for all the six days without anyone to help?”, exclaimed one of the backbenchers in the class.

“Well, yeah, they were. They traveled together in that spaceship for like six long days and came back. It’s not that easy. It takes a lot of courage to do that. They must have gone through a lot of psychological issues during that time to stay isolated from their families and from their planet.”

One of the students asked about the psychological issues that an astronaut faces during this kind of space travels, on the answer to which the teacher explained it very simply so that they could understand.

“Space travel may seem to be a lot of fun and adventure. You may think that they would be having a lot of fun out there in the space, gazing at the infinite dark universe and the twinkling stars in the serene sky, but it’s no bed of roses. It has its challenges; whether it is physically or psychologically. Space travel will test you to your limit. You asked about psychological issues, right? Ok, listen.”

“The astronauts reside in a very contained, isolated, and hostile place with zero gravity. It’s a very stressful environment where you have to stay with a few crew members for a long period of time, say, six months or nine months or more so long as your mission isn’t accomplished. There are many other problems like nutrition issues, waste disposal, and work-rest cycles.

In space shuttles, they enact various science experiments, release and capture big satellites. They even assemble the space station or the ISS (International Space Station). They also have the orders to monitor experiments controlled from the ground. They exercise for a longer period of time to remain fit and to prevent bone and muscle loss. They undergo a lot of physical issues during this period, for the prevention of which, they exercise almost for 2.5 hours a day.

EFFECTS OF SPACEWALK on PSYCHOLOGY:

Another activity that could potentially damage an astronaut’s physical health is Spacewalk or Extravehicular activity during their stay on ISS. During the spacewalk, they are exposed to dangerous cosmic rays. Heavy exposure to cosmic ray may increase the risk of cardiac disease, cancer and disorder of the central nervous system and also, acute radiation syndrome.

Acute radiation syndrome(ARS) is also known as Radiation toxicity which occurs in a person’s body due to heavy exposure of entire or most part of the body to a high dose of penetrating radiation (e.g. X-rays, Ultraviolet rays, Gamma rays).

The reason exposure to radiation is so dangerous is that it attacks blood vessels and bone marrow, which makes blood. As a consequence, the number of disease-fighting cells created by bone marrow decreases. Hence the affected person dies from internal bleeding and infection.

There occur structural transformations in the eyes of the astronauts on board and abnormally high cerebral fluids in their brains.

These were the physical obstacles that the astronauts have to face. But there are psychological issues. They may go through a lot of depression and anxiety during a long-term space trip as they have to deal with the same crew members every day with no escape whatsoever. Without family and the only idea of not being able to go back immediately as there is no one to escape, can be really frightening and intimidating.

Also, there is a lack of sleep and mineral loss which weakens them to a large extent. The tension of a potential collision or system failure or other terrible disaster or the fear of the unknown in the dark unknown space can be horrifying.  

A former American astronaut Scott Kelly is actually providing a helping to NASA(National Aeronautics and Space Administration) to understand deeply the physiological and psychological effects of space travel and the effects of staying in a zero-gravity confined environment for a longer period of time as Scott is the one to spend the longest amount of time in space.

So, NASA is testing astronauts for their radiation tolerance and psychological health before sending them to outer space”.

“So, guys got any idea about the cons of space travel. If you really want to be like those astronauts to explore Mars or Moon or Titan, you need to excel in my class first. Read astronomy thoroughly. Ok, see you in the next class. We shall discuss more interesting facts about deep space. Till then, goodbye. Take care.”, with this note the teacher leaves the astronomy class. 

Author: Som Abhisek.

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