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

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3:00 a.m. ET: 5,594,175 — Total deaths: 350,531 — Total recoveries — 2,288,579Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 3:00 a.m. ET: 1,681,418 — Total deaths: 98,929 — Total recoveries: 384,902 — Total tested: 14,907,041Map.
  3. Federal response: DOJ investigates meatpacking industry over soaring beef pricesMike Pence's press secretary returns to work.
  4. Congress: House Republicans to sue Nancy Pelosi in effort to block proxy voting.
  5. Business: How the new workplace could leave parents behind.
  6. Tech: Twitter fact-checks Trump's tweets about mail-in voting for first timeGoogle to open offices July 6 for 10% of workers.
  7. Public health: Coronavirus antibodies could give "short-term immunity," CDC says, but more data is neededCDC releases guidance on when you can be around others after contracting the virus.
  8. What should I do? When you can be around others after contracting the coronavirus — Traveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  9. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.

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