Illustration for article titled Three Ways To Keep Astronauts from Going Crazy In Space

It's hard to imagine anything more unpleasant than being stuck in a metal can millions of miles from home with a crazy person. Space missions to Mars and beyond will need a way to deal with the boredom, isolation and close quarters of long-term space travel, or some unlucky astronauts could find out just how bad space madness gets. The American Psychological Association is on top of the problem, though. They've got three ideas that could help keep our space explorers from going all "Major Tom" on us.The APA introduced their ideas at their recent convention, drawing from past studies of astronaut psychology and even records of explorers from centuries past. 1. Have an electronic psychologist on board. The APA has already developed a computer program that will let astronauts discuss their psychological issues and assist with conflict resolution. Why a computer? Astronauts don't like to tell human doctors about their issues because they're afraid they might lose flight privileges. 2. Create a home away from home. Astronauts on board the International Space Station are isolated, but they can radio down to Earth easily. Martian explorers will have a hard time even seeing Earth, which could have a profound psychological effect. Psychologists recommend a regular schedule of communications with family and friends back home, even if there's a lengthy delay between "send" and "receive." Anything that connects the astronauts to Earth will combat crippling homesickness. 3. Find out how they dealt with these problems in the past. Tomorrow's explorers will follow in the figurative footsteps of Columbus and Balboa in ships like NASA's Orion, pictured. In many ways, those explorers dealt with a lot of the same problems, such as close quarters, isolation from family and friends and potential problems with other members of the crew. The APA says it plans to study historical records from Earth-bound explorers to find out how they did it. Image by: NASA To The Moon And Mars: Psychologists Show New Ways To Deal With Health Challenges In Space. [Science Daily]

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