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.