SIRIUS - Virtual Earthgazing to mitigate effects of sensory isolation


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.

This project is funded by ESA and DLR.

Media coverage

Stepanova, K. (2021). Virtual real­ity can combat iso­la­tion with awe and empa­thy — on Earth and in space. The Conversation. Retrieved November 3, 2021, from
Earthgazing VR expe­ri­ence to help astro­nauts cope with lone­li­ness. (2021, November 3). SFU News — Simon Fraser University. Retrieved from


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

Sirius. (2021, October 1). [Curated & peer-reviewed Virtual Reality Exhibition]. V-Unframed, Vancouver, BC, Canada.

Thanks to funding from:

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