photo op at the end of the Earth. These guys probably didn't have to eat
their sled dogs to get back from the South Pole like Sir
Douglas Mawson did.
bright side of space travel
You bet. Lawrence Palinkas, who studies life in Antarctica at the University of California, says, "Even though it's a very hostile
environment, and most people consider long periods of isolation and confinement very stressful, for the kind of people who volunteer, many actually experience positive psychological and health benefits."
Overwintering, he says, is a "well defined challenge that they can meet successfully; it raises self-esteem, self-efficacy [ability to affect the world] and self-confidence. It teaches ways of coping with stressful situations." (Palinkas says that, despite the wisdom of pop psychology, self-reliance and introversion work in the Antarctic. "Those who are socially extroverted, who tend to rely on outsiders to cope with stress, do very poorly.")
benefits of isolation
A possible explanation for the improved health, Palinkas says, is that travelers "tend to become better capable of altering their coping style to fit the situation, rather than using the same coping style" in every situation.
Despite these benefits, we're not minimizing the challenge of prolonged space missions. And from what we've seen, it's clear that the human animal cannot be treated just as another hunk of equipment.
In fact, humans pose the biggest challenge of long-term space travel, says Desmond Lugg, the veteran Antarctic doctor. "Basically the engineering side is superb; humans are the weakest link." Reassuring, eh?
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