An astronaut’s guide to life in coronavirus lockdown

By Paula García Viana

Berlin, Mar 28 (efe-epa).- Matthias Maurer’s training as an astronaut prepared him for scenarios of isolation, confinement and stress, skills he is now passing on to the wider population as they hole up at home to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

“Being prepared for isolation is part of our training,” the German astronaut, who is currently helping to develop the European Space Agency’s future manned missions to the Moon, said.

Like many others, he is currently working from home.

Maurer is a member of the #SpaceConnectsUs campaign, which on 26 March held a video conference offering advice to citizens forced to stay inside and isolate.

“It’s important to talk things through before arguing about something,” he said, recalling a small run-in he once has with a colleague.

“He hates the smell of bananas, I didn’t know and I ate one every day and he was suffering.

“One day he told me, and if you tell someone something like that in a friendly manner, it’s very easy to avoid conflict.”

Another top-tip from the astronaut was to maintain a routine.

“You cannot start the day without knowing what you’re going to do, every day you must have a plan.

“You have to have a project, something that fulfils you and makes you think ‘today I did this and it makes me happy and content’,” he added.

One of his projects, on top of work, is to continue to learn Russian.

“You also have to do a bit of sport,” he said, acknowledging that it was harder to do so when you are not allowed to leave the house.

On a different note, he admitted he could not understand why people were panic buying toilet paper.

“I plan this time exactly how I would plan a space mission. When we return to the Moon, within a few years, the trip will be three weeks.

“I cannot bring a hundred tolls of toilet paper for three weeks, there would be no space for experiment kit or food. I have therefore calculated that two rolls are sufficient for three weeks, he added.

Maurer has not yet had the chance to visit the International Space Station but he is prepared for the eventuality. He said the situation onboard the ISS was not dissimilar to the isolation rules back here on Earth at the moment.

“We are in space for six months and there are different ways to keep your spirits up. We can talk with our families by videolink or by phone,” he said.

Since the lockdown came into effect in Spain, for example, the use of social media has gone up by 40 percent, calls – both over the phone and video- by 40 percent and cellphone data use by 25 percent.

“Also, every two weeks (in space) we have an obligatory call with the psychologist,” he added.

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