Thursday, April 22, 2021

Leon Quoted in Smithsonian Magazine

Headshot of Dr. Gloria Leon
Ever wondered what astronauts do on their weekends off? According to a Smithsonian Magazine article titled, “How Do Astronauts Spend Their Weekends in Space?” astronauts maintain a pretty similar schedule to the normal 9 to 5 work-week most of us experience. Living in such a confined space, maintaining a healthy work-life balance and mental health is essential.

When missions first began, these considerations were not always the first thought. Throughout NASA’s history of sending astronauts up to space, redesigning the interior for more social interaction as well as creating a work schedule that allowed for downtime saw a large increase in productivity and happiness. Gloria Leon, PhD, emerita professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Minnesota, notes that many astronauts' favorite thing to do in their free time is simply looking at the Earth. Taking photos of the earth is an area of relaxation that is mentioned often by astronauts. Other activities include playing instruments, watching movies, or even connecting with others via social media. Like many of us down here on Earth, astronauts seem to find pleasure and relaxation in the simple things, making their abnormal way of life almost strangely relatable.

Surprisingly, we earthlings can learn a lot about coping mechanisms from astronauts. Leon has conducted expedition research with applications for space missions. Read more about the lessons learned through her work.

Composed by Flora Pollack, communications assistant.