Life in Space, Life on Earth

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Apollo 9 Astronaut Rusty Schweickart discusses his space sickness, weightlessness, and his euphoria orbiting above the Earth.

The Overview Effect is the experience “of seeing firsthand the reality of Earth in space, which is immediately understood to be a tiny, fragile ball of life, hanging in the void, shielded and nourished by a paper-thin atmosphere” where national boundaries vanish and the need to create a planetary society with a united will to protect our Earth becomes both obvious and imperative. Rusty Schweikart was the first American astronaut to have this experience and for our class he described the Overview Effect in some detail.

Further Reading:
■ Student Emma Hantoot’s “Infosnack” Presentation: The Overview Effect Space Euphoria
■ Student Jenny Nguyen’s “Infosnack” Presentation: Viewing Earth From Space
The Overview Effect – Space Exploration and Human Evolution by Frank White
The Overview Effect…Will Change Your World. http://www.overviewinstitute.org.htm.
○ A retrospective survey of flown astronauts showed that the most common psychologically enriching aspect of spaceflights was the perception of the earth. This activity led to 84.5% of self-initiated Earth photography at the International Space Station, which may have led to an increase of well-being of astronauts on long-duration missions.
■ Chapter 4: Patterns in Crew-Initiated Photography of Earth from the ISS – Is Earth Observation a Salutogenic Experience? (79-102) – Psychology of Space Exploration (http://history.nasa.gov/SP-4411.pdf)
○ Although psychology played a significant role during Project Mercury for astronaut selection, group dynamics, and psychosocial adjustment and support, official interested disappeared due to the “Right Stuff” image, in regards to test pilots, until the mid-1990s. During this time, the challenges of long-duration space flights became a major concern. Attention became focused on how to maintain behavioral health – the absence of neuropsychiatric dysfunction and presence of positive interactions in physical and social environment – which reduces risks, helps optimize performance, and contributes to the overall well-being of space explorers and their families.
■ Chapter 2: Behavioral Health (17-46) – Psychology of Space Exploration (http://history.nasa.gov/SP-4411.pdf)
○ Demands for mission success have often clashed with severe human limitation in the space frontier. With the limited access to space, research on individual and group functioning in space environment continues to be put on hold. Thus, there is an increasing need to find analogs – relevant terrestrial substitutes – that can provide predictive insights into factors that influence group performance, health, and well-being in the space environment to contribute to our knowledge so we may buffer human limitations.
■ Chapter 3: From Earth Analogs to Space: Getting There from Here (47-78) – Psychology of Space Exploration (http://history.nasa.gov/SP-4411.pdf)

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