Science

Remember “bigger purpose” while social distancing during coronavirus pandemic, former astronaut Peggy Whitson says

Retired NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, who spent 665 days on the International Space Station, advised people feeling isolated while staying home during the coronavirus pandemic to remember the “bigger purpose” everyone shares. By social distancing and quarantining, people are “saving lives,” she said.

Whitson said NASA trains astronauts on the skills needed to interact with the same people 24/7, which could be helpful for people staying in now.

“We call them expeditionary crew skills, but they include things like teamwork in group living, and so recognizing that the team purpose is the most important, and COVID-19 gives us a very higher purpose, much like being in space does, because we are saving lives by quarantining,” she said. 

“So it is important to understand that bigger purpose and to embrace that purpose to give you reason and rationale for continuing to put up with the situation.”

Whitson also advised working on communicating with the people you’re living with. 

“That is the most important thing you have to be able to do,” she said. “We always have these ideas that we think we’re communicating and we have to make sure that that’s actually our intent that’s hidden in our head is actually being communicated.”

While Whitson said she never felt bored or restless in space because she “always had the option to look out the window, and it was always an amazing view,” she said on Earth, she recommends doing the things you never have time to do normally. 

“So much of our lives these days is so busy and cluttered, and what are the things that you would do if you had more time? Is it to read? Is it maybe to write poetry or do art? What is it that has been the thing that’s in the back of your head?” she said.

© 2020 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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