I don’t want to go into space

It has recently come to my attention that I’m not ready to go into space.

Not that there’s even a remote possibility.  But you know how every time there’s news from the space program, like talk starts up about colonizing Mars or someone doing a freefall jump from 24 miles up, and inevitably people pose the question, “Would you go?” Up until now, my response was always an immediate “Hell yeah!” So why the change of heart, you ask?

This is why:

I’m all but hyperventilating just looking at the thing.

I guess I never thought about it before. I don’t know when this started or what the catalyst was, but I am now claustrophobic, to a degree at least. I don’t even like the quarter-zip anorak style shirts/fleece thingies that you have to pull over your head to get in and out of. If it takes me more than a nano-second to get it off I start breaking out in a sweat. They feel like a strait-jacket. Actually any sort of top that makes me struggle at all to take off is on that list.

The thought of being stuck inside a space suit for days, weeks, months on end is nearly making me break out in hives. I think I could stand the suit, but it’s the HELMET that would make me claw holes in my throat.

Yes, I know what you’re thinking. How am I going to ride motorcycles with a helmet on then? Interesting question. And yes, they do make me a little panicky. The style known as the 3/4 helmet is what I wore for the class. They look like so:

Your face is free, nothing to block the air. Honestly I barely noticed the thing while I had it on. And you can hear just fine with one on. When I went shopping for a helmet, they immediately steered me (as a brand new rider) to the full-head helmets, these babies:

Can you IMAGINE the sheer terror of having one of these tight-fitting headclamps on a claustrophobic? Because they are SNUG. You don’t want wiggle-room or it would defeat the purpose. When I tried them on in the store I lasted about three seconds before I was begging the salesman to just GET IT OFF ME. My heart is racing even now thinking about it. The reason I went with the one pictured above is because the lower piece that covers the jaw releases and lifts up, thereby easing my freakout a bit. Also, and this is the best part, the jaw piece comes completely off, converting it to a 3/4 helmet. In it’s place you add a small sun visor which covers the exposed innards on the sides where the lower part attaches. The face shield remains, and the sun shield, which are both built into the top part. So lots of options.


At least I’m not alone in this fear. I saw this article today on Felix Baumgartner, the man who literally fell to earth from a space capsule from 24 miles up a couple of weeks ago. He had the same fear about the suit and the helmet, and he fought that fear. (and if you were somehow not among the 8 million who watched his jump live on YouTube, you can view it here.) He talks about how he sought out psychiatric help to get past the horror of being in the suit for five hours. I don’t think I need to go that route with the helmet quite yet. One thing the guys at the motorcycle shop suggested was sitting around the house, watching television with it on to get used to it. So I did that, and I found that when I focused on the tv, I forgot about the helmet. This leads me to believe when I’m out there riding and focusing on traffic and watching for hazards I’ll also not be so hyper-aware of the helmet.

But yeah, until spaceships are like the Enterprise, with artificial gravity and no suits required, I don’t think I want to go up. I need to get past my horror of the helmet first. Baby steps. But it’s nice to know I’m not the only one.

16 thoughts on “I don’t want to go into space

  1. As long as I feel like I can breathe, I think I’d manage. But putting that thing over the head and locking it down would take some serious self-control, or a lot of Valium. Despite my fear I got the full head helmet, since as a newbie rider I’m more likely to end up laying the bike down (or get run over by some dizty blond in an SUV who’s not paying attention…)


  2. I found out I was claustrophobic the first time I had an MRI. That’s when I knew space travel was out for me. I don’t know how astronauts do it. Every time I see them on the space station, I shudder a little. I also admire the heck out of them.


  3. I did chuckle a bit imagining you wearing your helmet while watching TV. But Debbie’s comment made me realize I’m only claustrophobic when somebody asks me before the activity (like having an MRI). I attribute it to having had just enough life experience to think about things that could go wrong. Not that I was a fearless young’un, but I didn’t hesitate as much as I do now as somebody’s mother.


  4. Heh I did feel a little silly, but it’s a good way to just get used to having the thing on your head in a place where you can pull it off if you reach the limits of your tolerance for it. When I start feeling like I can’t breathe it comes off. They assured me when you’re riding and the air is flowing in it’s not an issue. Just gotta get the bike now and see how it goes.


  5. Once I’m on the bike I’ll have other things on my mind instead of obsessing about the helmet. I may start out with the lower piece removed, for little rides around the neighborhood until I feel more confident.


  6. As a plumber, I can not be claustrophobic. So I’m glad I’m not. But I have been with several “helpers” who were. It is not a pretty picture. Including one guy who I thought was going to kill both of us in an under-slab tunnel in his panic to get back to the entrance.

    Scrambling to get out, He got his leg stuck in the mud up to the hip and I had to either help him get out or watch him dislocate his hip trying. Trying to clam him down so I cold help him get out was like trying to convince a cat that it should relax in the tub of water you are trying to put it in. To say he was “fighting” me was an understatement.

    In the end he got free and I got him out. Where he collapsed into a pile of muddy, sobbing, plumber’s ex-helper. Poor guy. I’m glad I have no idea what that feels like. I always ask the question but I guess you never really know until you are in the situation whether you are or are not clausterphobic.

    But on the subject of space travel and colonization. I have always, and still say, HELL YES I’LL GO! Which nowadays draws a smirk of polite amusement from my wife. “yeah buddy, you aint doing no such thing”

    And the fact that I get motion sickness from anything that spins faster than a merry-go-round might mean I would either be taking that helmet off A LOT!! or perpetually overdosed on Dramamine…



  7. I don’t think I’m quite that bad, but how awful for that guy (and you!). As long as I feel like I have air I seem to be ok (and removing tight articles of clothing where I nearly resorted to scissors to free myself).
    And I haven’t even begun to address the issue of constant nausea space travel induces…


  8. I’m with you Dame since I can hardly wear undies and socks without feeling trapped. I’m itching just looking at those pictures. I guess neither one of us is a John Glenn. Tang, they also drank Tang remember. Ugh.


    1. I’m ok with loose-fitting stuff, but anything that constricts movement or airflow is a problem (altho I’ve not noticed that with socks & skivvies 😉 ) Tang. Wow. Is that stuff still around?


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