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Utwo
2006-Mar-06, 07:49 PM
Hey guys,

I was wondering if it is common for astronauts to become depressed after flying a mission and landing back on earth. I ask this because I imagine it's difficult to have a mind-blowing experience like that and then, suddenly, be expected to live normally. I personally get depressed for several hours after watching Apollo 13. Seriously.

Launch window
2006-Mar-06, 07:58 PM
also discussed here
http://www.bautforum.com/showthread.php?t=19909
Space Madness in Long Duration mission - myth or reality ?

Kelfazin
2006-Mar-07, 03:21 AM
I believe the question was geared more towards the depression suffered upon return to Earth rather than problems while in space.

From reading a number of biographies written by the Apollo astronauts, depression upon return to Earth was generally mild. The one extreme case, at least from the Apollo days, is Buzz Aldrin. But his depression really stemmed from being "only" the second man on the moon rather than the first. He had a really hard time coping with that. Many of the other astronauts weren't depressed as much as...well...lost. They really didn't see how they could ever do anything more spectacular than walk on the moon. They felt, mainly, bored by the more mundane things here on Earth. After the whirlwind of spaceflight, moonwalking, splashdown, and then going world tours and shaking hands with presidents and prime ministers, nothing else really compared. Some of them got into politics, some stayed on and got into other programs that let them fly (spacelab, the shuttle) most of the others went into private business to try and make some money and/or make a difference in their chosen industry.

I'm not sure if the same holds true for the more recent shuttle astronauts, but I imagine it would be fairly difficult to land with the knowledge that you would never again get to do something as amazing spaceflight.

Sticks
2006-Mar-07, 11:55 AM
Should this discussion thread really be in the Space Exploration section rather than Astronomy?

ToSeek
2006-Mar-07, 04:19 PM
Should this discussion thread really be in the Space Exploration section rather than Astronomy?

Yes, so I've moved it there.

MID1
2006-Mar-07, 11:34 PM
Hey guys,

I was wondering if it is common for astronauts to become depressed after flying a mission and landing back on earth. I ask this because I imagine it's difficult to have a mind-blowing experience like that and then, suddenly, be expected to live normally. I personally get depressed for several hours after watching Apollo 13. Seriously.


Why do you get depressed after watching "Apollo 13" (I am assuming you mean the movie)?

I've never actually watched the entire movie (it's hard for me to put up with Hollywood embellishments to events that I know the reality of to a pretty good degree), but I lived the experience of Apollo 13 when it happened, and I feel inspired when I re-consider it today.
To me listening to the first hour or so of the MOCR audio loops just after the incident is awe inspiring...much more so than the movie, to me anyway. I consider Apollo 13 right up on the top of the list of Apollo's greatest accomplishments.

I think the astronauts, as a whole, were a pretty well adjusted lot. There is no doubt that the effect of the lunar missions was profound for each of them, and of course they all knew that they'd never do anything quite so compelling again. I recall Mike Collins at one of the press conferences associated with an anniversary saying something about the fact that he had the most interesting job of his life and he was done with it by the age of 38...but he added that "That's just the way it is," or something to that effect, a realistic approach, which I think was taken by most all of the men.

Buzz of course suffered from depression, and alcoholism became his problem subsequent to Apollo 11. Certain things he said subsequent to that were rather clear indications to me that he had severe problems attempting to live up to his image as a hero. Masked beneath that, in my opinion, was the real problem: his not being "the" hero...number one on the Moon, which, despite his own statements, seemed to have been a driving force in his life, pre and post Apollo 11. He wanted to be, thought he should've been, and after the flight, became depressed that he wasn't.

...a profound contrast to Neil, who was #1, and understood that position as it really is. His approach to his status as hero (which he diminished proundly) has been exactly the opposite--disappearing (relatively speaking) from the public eye, and conducting himself with an almost inhuman humility and dignity. There is little doubt that the right man became the first person to set foot on another world...

Now, certainly, there's got to be a certain let down after an accomplishment like Apollo...especially that Apollo. But Buzz's own problem with being second I feel exacerbated the situation and caused him serious trouble.

But that's really the only case of full blown depression (and attendant trouble) that I know of amongst the astronauts of Apollo days. And Buzz has gotten himself together quite nicely since.

So, I'd say it's highly uncommon.

I look out at the moon sometimes and can eventually get a certain melancholy feeling...but it's certainly not depression. I think that's probably common among those who were involved in the missions. The idea that we've been there is still rather stunning, and the reality that it all came to a premature end, and that we haven't done one jot of manned space exploration in the 34 years since is somewhat sad. Add to that the reality that there's a small but vocal faction who actually adheres to the stunningly ludicrous notion that we faked the whole thing, and one needs a beer!