'Virtual Space Station' Helps Astronauts Handle Pressures Of
Unless you live in Manhattan or Hollywood, visiting a therapist
is usually not something you're proud of. For many people, the
stigma appears enough to prevent them from getting help when they
really need it. But soon, thanks to NASA, access to an automated,
virtual therapist may be as close... and as private... as your
One of latest technologies developed to deal with the problems
of space travel is virtual therapy. The Associated Press reports
NASA will spend $1.74 million dollars on a project called the
Virtual Space Station, providing astronauts on long missions help
in dealing with the stresses that come with the job.
And despite the romantic notion of being in space, those
stresses are considerable. Think about the stress you feel at your
job. Now, imagine one mistake could cost the lives of you and your
co-workers, you're living with those co-workers in a very confined
space, and you can't step outside your cramped office for weeks or
months. You're floating weightlessly, and sunrise and sunset come
every 90 minutes, scrambling your body clock.
And alas, you can't talk by radio to a real therapist on a
mission to Mars... because if you're 250-million miles from earth,
a radio signal takes 22 minutes to travel each way.
NASA assures us the new program is not some real-life version
of HAL, the computer that rebelled against its imperfect human crew
in "2001: A Space Odyssey." This project, sponsored by the National
Space Biomedical Research Institute, features a recorded video
therapist who helps astronauts identify reasons for their
depression, and develop a plan to fight it.
Twenty-nine current and former astronauts have provided input in
the program's development.
Depression has not been common in space travel to date, but
stress-related anxieties have reportedly compromised two Russian
missions. One was chronicled by Valentin Lebedev in the book,
"Diary of a Cosmonaut." He wrote, "We don't understand what's going
on with us. We silently walk by each other, feeling offended. We
have to find some way to make things better."
There's no word yet on how real therapists feel about having
their profession automated. If every resident of a remote rural
area can get this kind of help on his computer, will anyone still
drive into the big city and pay 200 bucks an hour?
And, in a similar vein... has Dr. Phil just found an entirely