Space Exploration and the Mind

Many years ago I read “Ideas Die Hard,” a memorable story (at least to me) by Isaac Asimov. In the story, a crew of astronauts is on a flight to the moon under very tense circumstances. They go too far and see the dark side of the moon. SPOILER AHEAD: When they view the dark side, it’s a gigantic wood-and-paper stage set, the sight of which causes the crew to have a collective mental breakdown. At the end of the story, it’s revealed that the flight was a simulation and the simulator went just a bit further than intended. I think the story has stayed with me because it addresses the psychological dimensions of space exploration – an aspect I haven’t really seen addressed in news accounts or books.

NASA has filled this gap quite nicely with Psychology of Space Exploration, an engrossing new collection of articles on this theme. After an initial focus on the psychological effects of space travel, for many years the American space program paid only minimal attention to them, perhaps because the military background of the astronauts militated against what they perceived as the possibly career-retarding discussions of such matters. Interestingly, theSoviet Union paid much more attention to the psychological health of its cosmonauts during the same period. These days, however, NASA is more cognizant of the importance of mood, morale, the psychological effects of weightlessness, and other mind-body issues.

As a history buff, I was intrigued to read about the comparison of voyages in space to the epic journeys of Arctic explorers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Even now, wintering over in Antarctica is a kind of model of the prolonged stays in close quarters that characterize the International Space Station.

In a section on the interplay of astronauts from different countries working together, I was amused to learn that Soviet cosmonauts were not totally enthralled the space cuisine enjoyed by a French counterpart: “one of them later expressed his relief at going back to black bread and borscht after a menu of canned French delicacies, including compote of pigeon with dates and dried raisins, duck with artichokes, boeuf bourguignon, and more.”

Another fascinating essay described a space flight simulation experience in which people who knew that they were not really in space still got great enjoyment from their “trip.” It sounded so interesting that I was ready to sign up myself. Also, the special effects sound much better than those in Isaac Asimov’s story!

I really enjoyed reading Psychology of Space Exploration – I had no idea of the range of psychological issues that can crop up in space travel and the ways in which NASA has tackled them. Space buffs and students of the human mind will find much to ponder in this book. You can read it here, get your own copy, or find it in a library.

18 Responses to Space Exploration and the Mind

  1. dulcie-sutter says:

    great submit, very informative. I ponder why the other experts of this sector do
    not understand this. You must continue your writing. I’m sure,
    you have a huge readers’ base already!

  2. Videoüberwachung says:

    thanks for this post. It was really interessting.

  3. caddy says:

    I read the book the power of now, and stillness speaks, I found in both information that make more sense than the mind games played on collective humanity by those who use it asa means to control and manipulate the global human landscape.

  4. Holiday rentals in Spain says:

    It is amazing to think how technology has developed and I would love to think that in another 50 years we could be travelling to space as a holiday destination! How cool would that be.

  5. Evelyn Woodson says:

    I liked the introduction I read when linking to this site, It speaks of Astronauts exploring the dark side of the moon to find paper and wood props , and it blew their minds or at least that is what is implied , it reminds me of the Wizard of Oz . I read that time and space is not real, and all the things we think we are expererencing is allusions, and matter as we understand it is condensed enrgy,
    I read the book the power of now, and stillness speaks, I found in both information that make more sense than the mind games played on collective humanity by those who use it asa means to control and manipulate the global human landscape.

  6. Nancy says:

    I agree with the Russian Astronaut; French cuisine, although fine for dinner, was not meant to be eaten by real men at lunchtime!

  7. Just Thinking says:

    If Man Does Not Destroy This Planet First, Space Could Be A New Frontier on a living planet, the only thing is getting there, It is just an Idea, in movies. the facts are We have not quite got it, so if we destroy our planet today we may not ever beable to ever this is not new Ideas, Look at history the dreams of man, The Time May be Noew, or Tomarrow But Today We Live On this Hunk of Dirt !
    that some are killing, or looking at destroying but when it is gone it may never be agian ? We Only have Now ?! Tomarrow is at Question ? .

    • Ripon says:

      It’ll be fantastic to live in space on another favorable planet providing that there’ll be no more discrimination & segregation among people by religion, complexion, gender etc on that new favorable planet. Otherwise, the same suicidal cycle of civilization will resume ding dong again on that new planet!

  8. Meryem Psychic says:

    Thanks for sharing such a interesting piece of incident related with astronauts to highlight their psychic… Although it has changed quite a lot with the advent of new improved techniques of teaching and training in the space exploration field, it is indeed amazing to see how our space exploration field of study has evolved.

    • Ripon says:

      • Hi Meryem!

      So sweet your thinking is! The psychic aspect has already been evolved a lot – as you’ve mentioned nicely.

      I think nowadays evolution requires much to take place on the domain of inhabitants of this planet of earth rather than on astronauts’ mind. As because nowadays satellites use to crash-dropping from space on to the earth. In past once in Oklahoma, yesterday on the Pacific and in the North Canada, maybe tomorrow a whole spaceship on our head! Enjoyable indeed!
      Cheers!

      Ripon #

  9. Ripon says:

    Hence it’s been proven once again that mind is the most powerful factor interacting in every walk of human civilization’s three vital P’s – peace, progress & prosperity.
    It’s Mind – the most beautiful & effective power that unites and generates us towards the three vital P’s.
    Enjoy!

    Ripon #

  10. crozzzlinx says:

    sorry i am from indonesia, My previous comment in the Indonesian , in English it means: interesting information, but unfortunately I’m afraid of heights, let alone become an astronaut would fly away, it’s more than a building. Omg

  11. Suchmaschinenoptimierung says:

    Isaac Asimov also released few books about galaxy and astronomy, they are good to read if this blog was interesting for you.

  12. Jose R. Soto says:

    I knew Asimov had to be recognized as one of the great visionaries of contemporary civilization.

    • Ripon says:

      What was Asimov’s vision about getting rid of world’s ongoing problem with segregation, discrimination and terrorization?
      Ripon #

  13. futuretechnologyes says:

    its cool i want to become an astronomer by reading this post

    • Ripon says:

      By dint of future technology, it’s as simple as to be a driver or at least a passenger of a bus running to and fro on streets! So, one day such dream must become true – I’m sure; but what’s important is to stretch out all our dreams, exploration and entrepreneurship to be dedicated towards the welfare of human being as well as humanity, federal democracy, peace & progress. Only then our life becomes a success! I think as an astronomer one can contribute mankind in many aspects.
      God bless!

      Ripon #

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