Science

Tips for self-isolation from an astronaut trainer

Michaela Musilova helps astronauts prepare for life on the moon and Mars. Here's how she copes with living in isolation for months on end.

This is HI-SEAS, Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation, a white dome situated on the top of Mauna Loa on the Big Island of Hawaii. It's used to help prepare would-be astronauts for life on the moon or Mars.
Lexy Savvides/CNET
For the most up-to-date news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO and CDC websites.

Self-isolation to help curb the spread of the coronavirus has been a big adjustment for many people. Fortunately, astronauts have tons of experience living in small spaces with limited resources and have been sharing plenty of advice from their time in space.

Astrobiologist Michaela Musilova is the director of HI-SEAS (Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation), a white dome that sits atop the Mauna Loa volcano on the island of Hawaii. NASA and other space agencies have used this habitat to help astronauts, scientists and researchers prepare for life on the moon and Mars.

Musilova has been the commander on dozens of missions and shares her advice for adapting to a life in isolation in the video above. 

Now playing: Watch this: An astronaut trainer's tips for getting through self-isolation
12:07

Up to six people can live in the HI-SEAS habitat at one time, and the entire crew is isolated from the outside world for weeks to months at a time, depending on the mission. You have limited contact with the outside world (think email or video chat on delay) and a finite supply of food you have to make last for the length of the mission.

Some of her top tips? Like astronauts who have to suit up and don protective gear before venturing outside, Musilova suggests you treat a face mask like a space helmet so you avoid touching your face. "If you ever have trouble breathing, it's really important to slow down, take deep breaths and calm down," she says. In the video on this page, Musilova also covers some ways to help manage your time and how to maximize your living space.

My favorite takeaway from talking with Musilova? Answering the "Why are we doing this?" question that even astronauts ask themselves during a mission. "Everything we're doing will serve this greater purpose of helping humanity," she says. "You're doing the same thing today by staying home and self-isolating. You're saving people's lives."