6 Astronaut-Tested Tips for Navigating the Unknown, Overcoming Fear and Surviving a Pandemic


Do you feel safe? Will life ever get back to normal? What will that new normal look like? As we define a pandemic, nearly everyone is grappling with questions like these. An expert on the history of spaceflight—and one of the few women in her field—Amy Shira Teitel, author of FIGHTING FOR SPACE: Two Pilots and Their Historic Battle for Female Spaceflight (Grand Central Publishing; ISBN: 978-1-5387-1604-5; $30.00; Hardcover), invites us to find a silver lining and take this moment to learn how to adapt like an astronaut. Drawing on her extensive knowledge of NASA’s history and missions going back more than 60 years, Teitel shares six astronaut-tested tips to help us face the unknown and take small steps that just might lead to giant leaps in conquering quarantine, staying in the moment, learning how to focus, keeping a positive outlook and looking forward to the future. 1. Prepare Like an Astronaut. When the space age began in the late 1950s, NASA had to figure out what challenges and dangers astronauts would face—fast—with the understanding that they wouldn’t be able to control everything. No one knew if astronauts would be able to swallow food in space or if microgravity would make them go blind. Their survival ultimately came down to the best educated guesses. Astronauts need to react quickly, without creature comforts and with limited social interactions and uncharted risks. Survival TakeawayExpect challenges. Make peace with uncertainty. Stay informed. Be adaptable. 2. Stay Calm Like an Astronaut. For the nation’s first astronauts, mental fortitude was mission critical. After all, no one knew how flying in space and seeing Earth from orbit would affect the human psyche. As such, candidates went through extensive psychological testing. If they couldn’t stay calm and measured in the face of sensory deprivation and boredom or, on the flip side, when faced with a slew of alarms, they weren’t considered astronaut material. Survival TakeawayPay attention to your mental health. Take time for yourself, and even find a new practice to help cultivate a healthy headspace. 3. Sanitize Like an Astronaut. A simple head cold gets complicated since sinus cavities can’t drain without gravity. If you get a stomach bug, well, you can’t air out a spacecraft. Astronauts have limited medication and water on board, making recovering from an illness a lot harder than if they were at home. To prevent astronauts from getting sick in space, NASA quarantines all crews, typically for a period of two weeks, before a launch. What’s more, all robotic missions have to go through intense sanitation before a flight. We don’t want to land on Mars and find that some little Earth germ stuck around and will kill the life we’re hoping to find. Survival TakeawayPractice sound hygiene. Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Take precautions to avoid spreading the virus. 4. Stay Connected Like an Astronaut. On Apollo missions, ground crews kept the astronauts connected to Earth by relaying messages from their families and reading up daily news headlines, with a special emphasis on sports scores. Though they were in the vicinity of the Moon, they were able to maintain that connection to home. Survival Takeaway