SIRIUS - Virtual Earthgazing to mitigate effects of sensory isolation

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SIRIUS (Scientific International Research in Unique Terrestrial Station) is a series of on-land iso­la­tion exper­i­ments mod­el­ling long-term space­flight in order to assess the psy­chophys­i­o­log­i­cal effects of iso­la­tion on a crew and pre­pare for long-duration space­flights, such as a trip to Mars. An 8-month-long iso­la­tion study com­menced in Moscow on Nov 4th, 2021, where a crew of 6 people (from Roscosmos, NASA and space agency of Arabic Emirates) went into a spe­cial facil­ity mod­el­ling a space­craft, remain­ing there until July 2022  sim­u­lat­ing an extra­plan­e­tary jour­ney and par­tic­i­pat­ing in 70 exper­i­ments pre­pared by inter­na­tional research teams.

For this study, the iSpace team, in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Alexander Stahn and team has designed a VR expe­ri­ence and an accom­pa­ny­ing study that assesses the poten­tial of such a pur­pose­fully designed VR expe­ri­ence to mit­i­gate some of the neg­a­tive psy­cho­log­i­cal effects aris­ing from living in iso­la­tion and expe­ri­enc­ing sen­sory depri­va­tion. The VR expe­ri­ence takes par­tic­i­pants on a med­i­ta­tive jour­ney invit­ing them to reflect on their con­nec­tion to Earth and human­ity as well as the impor­tance of their own mis­sion. The expe­ri­ence is inspired by sev­eral self-transcendent phe­nom­ena such as med­i­ta­tion, wit­ness­ing vast nature, awe-inspiring aurora and solar eclipse, and the overview effect.

Alexander Stahn and iSpace trav­elled to Moscow in September 2021, to set up the system in the facil­ity and to famil­iar­ize the pri­mary and alter­nate crew with the pro­ce­dure of the study. They will travel to Moscow again in summer 2022 to learn about crew’s expe­ri­ence with Earthgazing VR.

Here’s the recent GlobalNews cov­er­age on our SIRIUS Earthgazing project: [note that this project was cre­ated by a whole team of people as described in the below cred­its, not just one PhD stu­dent]

Credits

Artists: Noah Miller, John Desnoyers-Stewart, Katerina Stepanova, Ashu Adhikari, Bernhard Riecke, Patrick Pennefather, Alex Kitson, Denise Quesnel Experience Design and Development: Noah Miller, John Desnoyers-Stewart, Ashu Adhikari Direction: Bernhard Riecke Narrative and Concept: Katerina Stepanova, John Desnoyers-Stewart, Alex Kitson, Denise Quesnel Research Design: Katerina Stepanova, Noah Miller Voiceover: Katerina Stepanova Sound Design: Patrick Pennefather Collaborators: Alex Stahn, Katharina Brauns, Anika Werner

Publications and exhibits

Stepanova, K. (2021, October 31). Virtual real­ity can combat iso­la­tion with awe and empa­thy — on Earth and in space. The Conversation. http://theconversation.com/virtual-reality-can-combat-isolation-with-awe-and-empathy-on-earth-and-in-space-170189
Miller, N., Desnoyers-Stewart, J., Stepanova, E. R., Adhikari, A., Kitson, A. J., Quesnel, D. T., Pennefather, P., & Riecke, B. E. (2021, October 1). Sirius [Curated & peer-reviewed Virtual Reality Exhibition]. V-Unframed, Vancouver, BC, Canada. https://www.alliancefrancaise.ca/v-unframed/the-artworks/sirius/

Media coverage

SFU project to help astro­nauts deal with iso­la­tion. (2021, December 9). In Global News. Global News. https://globalnews.ca/video/8439499/sfu-project-to-help-astronauts-deal-with-isolation/
Simon Fraser University — Earthgazing VR expe­ri­ence to help astro­nauts cope with lone­li­ness. (2021, November 5). Education News Canada. https://educationnewscanada.com/social/jwjy/article/education/level/university/1/928654/Earthgazing-VR-experience-to-help-astronauts-cope-with-loneliness.htm
Earthgazing VR expe­ri­ence to help astro­nauts cope with lone­li­ness. (2021, November 3). SFU News — Simon Fraser University. https://www.sfu.ca/sfunews/stories/2021/11/earthgazing-vr-experience-to-help-astronauts-cope-with-lonelines.html
SFU researchers create vir­tual real­ity expe­ri­ence to help astro­nauts manage lone­li­ness in space. (2021, November 22). The Peak. https://the-peak.ca/2021/11/sfu-researchers-create-virtual-reality-experience-to-help-astronauts-manage-loneliness-in-space/
Sajwar, R. (2021, November 16). This New Earthgazing VR Experience Will Help Astronauts Cope With Loneliness In Space. Wonderful Engineering. https://wonderfulengineering.com/this-new-earthgazing-vr-experience-will-help-astronauts-cope-with-loneliness-in-space/
McDonald, B. (2021, November 11). Canadian VR tech­nol­ogy will aid iso­la­tion effects on a sim­u­lated long dura­tion space flight. CBC Radio. https://www.cbc.ca/radio/quirks/canadian-vr-technology-will-aid-isolation-effects-on-a-simulated-long-duration-space-flight-1.6245516
Earthgazing VR expe­ri­ence to help astro­nauts cope with lone­li­ness – SFU News – Simon Fraser University News | Prometheism Transhumanism Post Humanism. (2021, November 7). https://www.euvolution.com/prometheism-transhumanism-posthumanism/space-exploration/earthgazing-vr-experience-to-help-astronauts-cope-with-loneliness-sfu-news-simon-fraser-university-news/
SFU’s Earthgazing VR Experience Can Help Astronauts Deal with Isolation. (2021, November 5). AR VR News. https://arvrnews.co/vr-news/sfus-earthgazing-vr-experience-can-help-astronauts-deal-with-isolation/
Earthgazing VR expe­ri­ence to help astro­nauts cope with lone­li­ness. (2021, November 3). https://www.myscience.org/en/news/2021/earthgazing_vr_experience_to_help_astronauts_cope_with_loneliness-2021-sfu
B.C. student’s VR tech gets lift off in exper­i­ment on astro­naut lone­li­ness. (2021, December 10). MSN. https://www.msn.com/en-ca/news/technology/bc-students-vr-tech-gets-lift-off-in-experiment-on-astronaut-loneliness/ar-AARHrNu
Karamali, K. (2021, December 10). B.C. student’s VR tech gets lift off in exper­i­ment on astro­naut lone­li­ness | Globalnews.ca. Global News. https://globalnews.ca/news/8440729/sfu-virtual-reality-space-astronauts-loneliness/

Support & thanks

Thanks to fund­ing from DLR grant 50WB1915 (PI: Dr. AC Stahn, Charité Berlin) and addi­tional sup­port from ESA, DLR, SSHRC, and

funding_BMWi_Office_Farbe_en_WBZfunding-Logo_Charite.svgNSERC