What do Astronauts experience in space?

An astronaut’s experience of being in space is one that is both physically and mentally challenging. It is a journey that requires years of rigorous training and preparation. But for those who are able to make the journey, the rewards are truly out of this world.

Experiencing the Overview Effect

One of the most profound experiences that astronauts have while in space is the “Overview Effect.” Space philosopher Frank White coined this term in the 1980s to describe the cognitive shift that occurs when one sees the Earth from space for the first time. Astronauts describe this experience as an appreciation and perception of beauty, unexpected and even overwhelming emotion, and an increased sense of connection to other people and the Earth as a whole. 

As Neil Armstrong famously said, “It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn’t feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.”

Isolation and Confinement in Space

Another aspect of space travel that astronauts experience is the isolation and confinement of living and working in a small, enclosed environment. The International Space Station (ISS) is shared by six to eight people at a time even though it is the size of a six-bedroom house. This can be challenging for astronauts, as they are away from their families and friends for long periods of time. 

To combat this isolation, astronauts establish close relationships with their fellow crewmates, as well as with ground control teams and family members through regular communication.

Physical Challenges for Astronauts Living in Space

Astronauts also have to deal with the physical challenges of living in space. The lack of gravity causes a number of physical changes in the body, such as muscle and bone loss. To counteract these effects, astronauts engage in a rigorous exercise regimen. This includes resistance training and cardio, to maintain their physical fitness. 

They also have to be strict with their diet, as food can be limited. They also have to be careful of the way they consume it, as it can float away if not properly secured.

Exposure to Radiation in Space

Another major challenge of space travel is the risk of radiation exposure. The Earth’s magnetic field protects us from harmful radiation from the sun. However, in space, astronauts are exposed to much higher levels of radiation. This can increase the risk of cancer and other health problems. To protect themselves, astronauts use shielding and take other precautions to minimize their exposure.

Returning to Earth

Finally, the return to Earth can be difficult for astronauts. After spending months in space, their bodies have adapted to the microgravity environment. It can take time to readjust to the effects of gravity on Earth. They also may have to deal with psychological issues, such as culture shock, as they readjust to life on Earth after being in space for so long.

Conclusion

In conclusion, space travel is a challenging, but incredibly rewarding experience for astronauts. The Overview Effect, isolation, confinement, physical and radiation challenges, and readjusting to Earth are all part of the experience. But despite these challenges, the opportunity to experience the beauty and fragility of the Earth from space, and the increased sense of connection to humanity, make it a journey that many are willing to undertake.