Got a few dozen miners who are going to be trapped in a confined space for a few months? Need to figure out how to keep them from growing depressed, bored or otherwise driving each other crazy? Call NASA, of course.
USA Today reports that NASA is lending its psychiatric assistance to 33 Chilean miners who are stuck in a collapsed mine and are two to four months away from rescue. For obvious reasons, NASA has put a lot of thought into how people relate to one another when they’re stuck in a tin can for months at a time — and how to keep them from going for each other’s throats. (The agency is now seriously considering a manned six-month mission dubbed “Plymouth Rock” that would actually land on an asteroid in deep space.)
The same coping tools astronauts need during long space voyages will also help the trapped miners, NASA says. That includes keeping them updated on news and sports, letting them regularly talk to their family members, and most importantly, giving them honest updates about the rescue progress, even when things aren’t going well and they’re months away from freedom.
[NASA contractor Jack] Stuster has reminded the rescuers to expect exacerbation of minor problems, withdrawal, territorial behavior and possible hostility toward their rescuers or the mining company. [S]tudies of submariners during the 1950s show that a person’s re-entry into home life after months of absence may be stressful and that post-traumatic stress disorder can occur.
Which begs the question: Is there anything NASA doesn’t have a hand in?