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Spaceship Earth: Applying Lessons Learned In Orbit To Coping With The Pandemic

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Astronaut Nicole Stott poses with an EVA suit on the International Space Station. Photo: NASA

Could the pandemic teach us some things about how to live better? Retired NASA astronaut Nicole Stott thinks so. She says some of the lessons that astronauts learn about team work, isolation and resilience could be applied to the way we’re dealing with this crisis on earth. 

Stott joined Intersection by Skype from her home, where like many Americans she was learning the ropes of home schooling.

She said living with the stay at home orders and the challenges of trying to “flatten the curve” of the pandemic mean people have to think differently.

“And that certainly is what happens when you go to space,” said Stott.

“The International Space Station while it’s not tiny, I mean, it’s really kind of a ginormous volume to work in, but you are confined to it and now you have to work within both those physical bounds of it but also the schedule that the ground is sending you every day, and kind of the limitations on the resources that you have and things like that, and I think that’s what a lot of us are going through right now.”

Stott said the kind of teamwork that astronauts use to respond to emergencies in space is also what will help us get through this pandemic.

“And we’re doing a little bit of that now, aren’t we, we’re kind of having to rally both as our families or as individuals in our homes.”

Stott said she hopes we can take this moment not just to solve the problem in front of us and end the pandemic, but figure out how to cooperate more, after the crisis is over.

“Look at it as a way we can work together on a scale that yes, is exponentially larger than what we do as six people or, you know, thousands of people on the earth for a space station program to work peacefully and successfully, but extrapolate that to how we can work as crew members here on on Spaceship Earth.”

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Matthew Peddie

About Matthew Peddie

Host of WMFE's Intersection & Assistant News Director

Matthew Peddie grew up in New Zealand and studied journalism at the University of Western Ontario. After graduating with an MA in Journalism he returned to Christchurch, working as a reporter for Radio Live and Radio New Zealand. He’s reported live from the scene of earthquakes, criminal trials and rugby ... Read Full Bio »