March 26, 2020 / 6:54 PM / a day ago

Astronaut tips to survive lockdown: talk, teamwork, treats

BERLIN (Reuters) - Stick to a daily routine, stay connected with family and treat yourself occasionally - those are some of the tips German astronauts gave for surviving lockdown during the coronavirus crisis, which they said was much like their time in space.

Thomas Reiter, 61, who was the first German astronaut to perform a spacewalk, recalled during a Skype conversation with other astronauts on Thursday how he had a tight daily routine in space.

“I think it’s important to follow a conscious routine in such a situation ... keeping that routine all week,” said Reiter, now retired.

But weekend treats were important to look forward to.

“During the week we picked out the things from the food container that each person liked the most for a Friday or Saturday evening and then had a bit better food,” he said.

Reiter recalled using Skype to connect with his family from the International Space Station. Sitting in front of a bookshelf, he recommended using lockdown to catch up on reading.

“You have to be able to retreat,” he said, but added that in confinement with others, people must put the group first. “You work together as a crew, you have to think of the others.”

Matthias Maurer, 50, the newest addition to the European Space Agency’s astronaut corps, said it was important to address any niggles before they blow up into arguments.

“Everyone of us has a quirk which we are comfortable with but which can annoy others,” he said, recalling how his taste for bananas annoyed a colleague who couldn’t stand their smell.

“If he hadn’t said that so politely and clearly, I would have continually annoyed him,” said Maurer.

Alexander Gerst, 43, who commanded the International Space Station, addressed the anxiety people may feel during the coronavirus epidemic.

Before a mission, astronauts think about the worst that could happen and then train how to respond.

“Then you have the feeling not that you are losing control, but that you have some control over the situation,” he said.

FILE PHOTO: International Space Station (ISS) crew member Alexander Gerst of Germany rests after the landing of the Soyuz MS-09 capsule in a remote area near the town of Zhezkazgan, formerly known as Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan December 20, 2018. REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov

“Now the situation is similar. We have a very effective means of limiting this illness - that is that we stay at home.”

Reiter urged people to act likes astronauts going into quarantine before a mission - a protocol to prevent illness in space.

“Some people take the attitude ‘I’m young, I’m not at danger, I have no symptoms, so I don’t need to pay attention’,” he said. “It is up everyone to behave appropriately now, just like for us in quarantine.”

Writing by Paul Carrel; Editing by Alexandra Hudson

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