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  • Writer's pictureMerve Can

Speaking the language of space: Required skill for 21st Century

Speaking the language of space with what it takes to survive and thrive under extreme conditions. This skill will be necessary for almost everyone in the #21stcentury. It’s going to be like learning a new language and it is indeed a new language: you need to start speaking it and practice it.

We, as psychologists. need to equip people for extreme conditions, first psychologically and in the meantime, of course physically.

ICE conditions: this is an acronym for #isolated, #confined and #extreme conditions. ICE is used widely in space psychology literature. If you look behind the 2 ½ years, we all spent most of our time in our homes or trying to take care of ourselves and our loved ones as we were calling this state as being “isolated”. Therefore, we already started to use the term isolated in our daily lives. So the ordinary person has the same terminology of being isolated in their vocabulary now.

What about confined? Confined means limited, covered or imprisoned; in other words being restricted in an area or volume. Being isolated comes along with being confined most of the time. It was also what happened during pandemic as we were isolated at our homes. If your home didn’t have an open space like a garden or a balcony or a terrace, practically your home was a confined space as well. Being restricted in a small area like 50 square meters or even 100 square meters can be really depressing and pressuring.

Finally, it is the extreme conditions that define space environments. Actually, not only in space but also on the earth we can find extreme environments such as in Antarctica or deep sea levels. The survival is at stake in these extreme environments, and one needs to be very knowledgeable, skillful and resourceful in order to survive. At the peak of the pandemic, think about hopping onto a train packed with hundreds of people. Your everyday commute can turn into an extreme condition if you don’t have the knowledge in terms of how to keep yourself safe if you are not resourceful and know what to use in order to keep yourself safe from others. Both at the beginning and the peak of the pandemic, this was not a common knowledge.

As Yuval Harari explains in his famous book Homo Deus, humankind has struggled with three important things in history: Famine, wars and pandemics. Back in 2016, maybe when he was writing Homo Deus Harari thought that humankind was, to some extent, successful for neutralizing these destabilizing conditions. We may indeed say that finding the vaccine for COVID-19 in one year time was a success story. However we still lost millions to COVID-19 pandemic which also proved us that pandemics will not be over and they can still take two years of human history. Time, talent and energy, in other words most important resources were spent for fighting COVID-19. It still didn’t deter NASA’s Perseverance to be sent to Mars back in July 2020. Another important space related event that happened in 2020 was SpaceX crew dragon demo 2 which was the first test flight of the crewed dragon spacecraft launched on 30 May 2020. But the endeavors started way before the pandemic and it was just the last push required.

Interestingly, space endeavors can be helpful for neutralizing factors such as wars and famine on Earth. For the latter, with Square Roots, a venture capital-backed vertical farming company founded by Kimbal Musk ( brother of Elon Musk) creating conditions to feed not only people on Earth but also Mars. Many wars are a result of the scarcity of resources. If famine can be solved with high technology efforts inspired by the question around how to survive at space, I believe energy problem can be solved too.

All in all, if we can all speak the language of space and steer our efforts and thought experiments accordingly, we all have a better future prospect.

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