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NASA's “Death Simulator” - A Powerful Learning Tool For Anyone

There's no doubt space is an extremely dangerous place…


…so what do astronauts mentally do to operate in this harsh environment.


And what can we learn from it to tackle fear...


In space there are many ways to die, astronauts can be:


- Suffocated by a lack of oxygen

- Burnt to death in 120°C sunlight

- Drowned in space (from their own equipment malfunction)

- Frozen to death in -100°C shadow

- Turned into a blowfish by vacuum

- Cooked by cosmic rays and solar radiation

- Pierced by a tiny meteoroids


So how do astronauts prepare for the very real possibility of death in space?


They train.

They train their minds and emotions — ahead of time.

Specifically, crews on earth, do training exercises known as “death sims”, as Chris Hadfield shares in his excellent book An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth.


A death sim starts with a scenario. An astronaut is pronounced dead and the crew act out its response in a real life simulation.


Everyone who could be involved in dealing with their death (doctors, NASA administrators, colleagues, even the astronauts family if they want) participate.

Every 5-10 minutes, a ‘green card’ is thrown in to the mix — a realistic twist or complication, adding further problems and pressures on the situation for the team to respond to.

It’s an intense, realistic and life-enhancing training experience.


They’ve proven to be an incredible valuable both on and off earth.


Even Chris’s wife, Helene, participated in several 'death sims' of her husband.


Why?


Well as Chris shared...

“Because she discovered that taking the time to verbalize what you think you would do in the worst-case scenario quickly reveals whether you’re really prepared or not.” “In fact, everyone who participated in the sim discovered weaknesses in their own planning and went back to the drawing board on a few items.”


Sims help you identify gaps in your knowledge. They force you to "encounter domino effects that simply never occurred to you before.”


What astronauts learn on the ground they take with them to space.


As Chris shared recently, there is a difference between fear and danger.


When asked what he feared in space, he replied:


“If you sit quietly on the space station for a while and listen, you can hear meteorites ricochet off the hull of your ship. It’s a real reminder that you are in a dangerous place. You can get paralyzed by fear.”


But rather than just be afraid his training taught him to learn about the real danger you are facing.


For example, he and his fellow astronauts would ask:


  • How fast are the meteorites coming?
  • How many are there?
  • How good is the armor on the ship?
  • If one comes and actually punches us, what are we going to do about it?

This process of attacking the fears he faced taught him to recognise that there is a difference between danger and fear.


“They don’t have to be the same thing.  If you don’t want to be afraid, it’s really good to dig and in and understand the actual danger. So then you can take the appropriate actions.”


This doesn't apply only to life or death situation. You can apply it to any fear you have.


Test this out for yourself.


Astronauts know life outside earth is risky business. But they don't let their fears stop them and they don't ignore real dangers. They venture into space to advance humanity’s scientific ambitions.


Each astronaut personifies the motto of the international space station:


“Off the Earth, for the Earth.”


It’s the same international ambition and cooperation that created the International Space station to further humanity’s goals and ambitions that will help us thrive and progress beyond this pandemic.


So next time you find yourself caught by fear, look up to the sky and remember your training...


  • Attack your fears.
  • Understand what is the actual danger.
  • Plan accordingly.

In the meantime, check out this uplifting video about humanity's ingenuity to overcome challenges and reach for the stars...

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