Feeling particularly irritable, stressed and likely to lash out at those around you for no good reason? Don't worry; you're not having some kind of nervous breakdown... at least, not if you spend a lot of time in orbit. Chances are, you're just experiencing Space Fatigue - A condition created by SF writers in the 1950s that has become a real problem for NASA and other space agencies around the world.The concept of Space Fatigue first appeared in Adventure Comics #318, and is best summarized by the Polite Dissent blog's description of the symptoms:
Fourth, delusions of grandeur.
And finally, catatonia.
The reality is somewhat less dramatic, but no less dangerous. In 1980, NASA was tasked by the US Congress to investigate the effects space travel had on pilot fatigue, and in 1999, they presented their findings:
Throughout the course of this outstanding research program, it has been evident that pilot fatigue is a significant safety issue in aviation. Rather than simply being a mental state that can be willed away or overcome through motivation or discipline, fatigue is rooted in physiological mechanisms related to sleep, sleep loss, and circadian rhythms. These mechanisms are at work in flight crews no less than others who need to remain vigilant despite long duty days, transmeridien travel, and working at night when the body is programmed for sleep.
The solution? Well, that didn't come until this year, and apparently, it's sticking wires into your brain. Or something:
The brain cap sends weak pulses of near-infrared light into the brain, then analyzes the reflected wavelengths. The results reveals how much oxygen is in the brain's blood, which is a gauge of it's activity (is that why I like to do hand stands?). The psychiatrist who is developing the scanner, Gary Strangman, said that he and others are already using the device on Earth-bound patients.
Yes, that's right; the best that modern science can come up with to deal with the problem is a device that allows you to monitor whether you're getting a little abnormal. With the advent of regular commercial space travel looking increasingly likely in our lifetimes and this problem remaining unsolved, now may be a good time to consider living underground, if only to avoid the spaceships that will soon be falling out of the sky on a regular basis due to pilot error brought on by fatigue.