Coping with Isolation: Tips from the Pros

A month ago, the NASA leadership team and I decided to move the entire agency to mandatory telework and take extra measures to protect NASA employees from the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). Whether you are teleworking or working on-site to continue NASA’s vital missions, we understand these uncertain times have had a significant impact on everyone’s lives. As we all do our best to follow CDC guidelines and practice social distancing to help protect ourselves and others from COVID-19, I know that many are still learning to cope with social distancing.

Living in isolation is a concept with which NASA psychologists and astronauts are extremely familiar. For 60 years, NASA astronauts have been in space sometimes for months at a time, in small cohorts, with limited contact with their loved ones on Earth. Astronauts can provide excellent guidance for all of us as we navigate life during these times of social isolation.

Expert Tips

NASA astronauts have shared some specific advice about their training and the concept of expeditionary skills.

  • Anne McClain shared NASA’s five key expeditionary skills and examples of how to practice them in daily life.
  • Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan made videos from the International Space Station sharing their tips, like following a schedule and taking good care of yourself and your health.
  • Morgan says it’s important to think about how your actions affect the actions of others.
  • Meir talks about the importance of finding the silver linings.
  • Christina Koch, who spent 11 months in space, suggests thinking of how you can brighten someone else’s day.

Even former astronauts are sharing tips, like Peggy Whitson, who helped create the curriculum we use to train astronauts on social isolation, wanted to remind folks that even though we might be in a small space right now, we are part of something bigger.

Overcoming the Challenges of Isolation

NASA has been spotlighting resources from our Human Research Program’s Social Isolation in Space page. We have also been adding social isolation-themed content on

Here are some of my favorite features so far:

Remember, we are in this together, so continue to check in with members of your team, and don’t hesitate to ask for what you need.

Ad Astra,


Apollo 13 Reminds Us of Hard Things Worth Doing

American history shows we are capable of ingenuity, devotion and great courage.

By Jim Lovell and Jim Bridenstine

As the coronavirus pandemic unfolds, Americans can take comfort in our history of facing difficult times with courage and emerging stronger on the other side of struggle. The Apollo 13 mission, launched 50 years ago Saturday, reminds us of Americans’ characteristic resilience and ingenuity.

On April 11, 1970, Apollo 13 lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It was supposed to be the third mission to land men on the moon, after Apollo 11 and 12 the previous year. Thirteen was no less daring than its predecessors, but the launch wasn’t front-page news. By 1970, space travel was no longer a novelty and few Americans tuned in for the launch. At that time, no one could have imagined that the mission would become one of the most harrowing odysseys in American history.

When things went wrong on the Apollo 13 mission, it captured the world’s attention. News of the oxygen-tank explosion and crippled service module jolted the public awake to the drama unfolding 200,000 miles from Earth. Americans were reminded that space exploration is high-risk work demanding exceptional technical competence and bravery.

Fortunately, the flight engineers at Mission Control in Houston and the astronauts hurtling toward the moon understood the complex dangers space holds. The rescue mission wasn’t solely the product of improvisation, but of an innovative and cooperative workforce ready to take on any challenge.

For four vexing days, the Apollo 13 flight crew endured bitter conditions. The astronauts powered down all nonessential systems, which caused cabin temperatures to drop near freezing. Some food became inedible. Drinking water was rationed to ensure the cramped lunar module would operate longer than planned. The ground crew worked for 87 hours straight to come up with possible solutions. At one point, the crew flew through space with only the sun as a guide, a reminder of the original meaning of “astronaut,” which is derived from the Greek for “star” and “sailor.”

Benefiting from extensive planning and rigorous training and testing, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration overcame the obstacles of insufficient oxygen, water and power. Apollo 13 splashed down in the South Pacific, its lunar module ingeniously repurposed as a lifeboat. No one familiar with the perils of the mission can look at duct tape, plastic bags and cardboard the same ever again.

On this golden anniversary of NASA’s most successful failure, the nation honors the physical and intellectual courage of the astronauts, as well as the diligence and ingenuity of the ground crew that kept Americans alive aboard a crippled spacecraft hundreds of thousands of miles from home. Apollo 13 revealed more than technical talent. It reminded the world of America’s frontier spirit. In the face of seemingly impossible odds, Americans didn’t let fear paralyze us. Instead we joined together, working calmly and efficiently to find a solution.

America has an ambitious future in space exploration. NASA’s Artemis program is working to land the first woman and the next man on the moon by 2024, which in turn will help prepare for humanity’s next giant leap to Mars. Artemis will require state-of-the-art technology and push the boundaries of human knowledge like never before. It will also demand the same courage, ingenuity and devotion Americans showed in Apollo 13. We, as a nation, must continue to do hard things. That’s how we soar into the heavens and progress as a civilization.

Bring Your Ideas to NASA@WORK

Over the past few weeks, I’ve heard from employees across the agency who want to help the nation through this unprecedented time. These comments exemplify the prevailing, can-do spirit of NASA people and our willingness to take on any challenge.

As the nation comes together to confront this crisis, we must look at every opportunity for NASA to lend a hand and increase our contribution to America’s response. We have unique capabilities—several of which are already being used to help combat COVID-19. We also have talented people and decades of experience finding solutions to complex problems.

NASA will continue to support the Administration and local response efforts by our field centers. Starting today, we’re also asking the NASA workforce for ideas of how the agency can leverage its expertise and capabilities to provide additional support. Using our internal crowdsourcing platform NASA@WORK, you can submit ideas for solutions relevant to COVID-19. Multiple ideas may be selected for follow-up and potential action.

For this initial call, NASA leadership, working with the White House and other government agencies, determined three focus areas around personal protective equipment, ventilation devices, and monitoring and forecasting the spread and impacts of the virus. Other creative ideas are welcome, and as COVID-19 evolves, we may introduce additional topic areas to address the needs of the country.

You can find more information about the NASA@WORK opportunity below and online. I encourage anyone with an idea to submit it within the next two weeks, as it could propel meaningful contributions to the COVID-19 response.

Thank you all in advance for bringing your ingenuity to the table and helping with something so important. And thank you to the Space Technology Mission Directorate for spearheading this effort on behalf of the agency and for the benefit of the nation.

Ad astra,