Mar 24, 2020 - Science

The cosmic perspective on self-isolation

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The perspective space provides is essential during these troubled times.

Why it matters: Astronauts live in isolation and look down on our planet with a view that can bring people out of their own experiences, especially during times of extreme and shocking change.

  • 43% of people surveyed as part of our Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index this week said their emotional and mental health has worsened lately.
"It can be nice to remember that there's a big wide universe out there and that we are not important to it. There's this great beauty in the world and in the universe that you can access even when things are terrible."
— Astronomer Katie Mack to Axios

As people around the U.S. are stuck in their homes, worrying about keeping their loved ones safe from the novel coronavirus and what tomorrow might bring, a little inspiration might do everyone some good.

  • So get outside and look up at the stars with your neighbors (staying at least six feet away from one another, of course).
  • Find out the current phase of the Moon and check it out when it rises above you.
  • Track the International Space Station or other satellites flying overhead.

What they're saying: Astronauts themselves also have some key advice for people attempting to make it through what could be months of isolation.

  • Scott Kelly — who spent nearly a year on the International Space Station — suggests that people working from home and quarantined need to follow a routine to try to foster a sense of normalcy under extraordinary circumstances.
  • "One of the side effects of seeing Earth from the perspective of space, at least for me, is feeling more compassion for others," Kelly wrote in the New York Times. "As helpless as we may feel stuck inside our homes, there are always things we can do."
  • NASA's Anne McClain detailed the space agency's five skills that keep isolated groups functioning in a healthy way, including good communication, self-care, leadership and team care.
  • Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield pointed out that if astronauts on the station — an extremely dangerous environment — can learn how to be productive under those conditions, people self-isolating on Earth can too.

The bottom line: During these anxiety-filled times, everyone deserves a break from the current moment, and space can provide a helpful perspective.

Go deeper: Astronomers capture Earth's atmosphere glowing from space

Go deeper

Astronomers capture Earth's atmosphere glowing from space

Photo: NASA

Earth's atmosphere glows from space. This photo taken earlier this month shows the thin copper-tinted limb of the atmosphere as seen from the International Space Station.

How it works: The time-lapse photo was snapped as the orbiting outpost passed 262 miles above Kazakhstan. If you ever want to try to spot the station from your own backyard, you can use this handy tool to find out exactly when the space laboratory will pass overhead.

Go deeper: A fingerprint of Earth from space

NASA selects experiments to fly aboard its Gateway space station

Artist's illustration of the Gateway. Photo: NASA

Two experiments designed to monitor the space environment will eventually orbit the Moon on NASA's small Gateway space station.

Why it matters: The experiments will keep an eye on the radiation environment in lunar orbit in order to help scientists learn how to keep astronauts safe as they explore deep space.

Go deeperArrowMar 17, 2020 - Science

Nations around the world moved toward militarizing space last year

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

In the last year, countries including the U.S., France, Russia and Japan took steps toward further militarizing their uses of outer space, according to a new report from the Secure World Foundation.

Why it matters: As space becomes increasingly key for militaries, nations are starting to find new ways to protect their military and research satellites, raising concerns that they might develop ways of destroying enemy satellites and making some parts of space unusable.

Go deeperArrowMar 31, 2020 - Science