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MIT Technology Review

Lessons from space

Three MIT grads who spent months on the International Space Station share advice for social isolation.

Coleman on ISSColeman on ISS
Cady Coleman '83, who took her flute to space, planned to take Skype flute lessons while social distancing.
NASA

As much of the world struggles to adjust to enforced social distancing, NASA astronauts Cady Coleman ’83, Mike Fincke ’89, and Greg Chamitoff ’92 find the situation somewhat familiar—all served long missions aboard the International Space Station, not even on the planet with their families and friends. Among their tips for the rest of us:

  • Maintain a schedule of necessary tasks as well as activities to look forward to. “Just because I don’t have to go into work doesn’t mean I shouldn’t get up and be showered and dressed,” Fincke says.
  • Value your relationships—take advantage of technology to communicate with people every day.
  • Concentrate on the things you can control, such as learning new skills, and avoid dwelling on the things you can’t.
  • Take care of yourself.
  • Remember that we are doing this for a reason. As Coleman says, “Right now our mission is to keep each other safe here on Earth.”
  • Above all, realize that even if we are isolated, we are not alone. “We are an incredibly adaptable species,” Chamitoff says. “We live in all sorts of extreme environments, including zero gravity. One thing we do need, however, is each other.”