What Should Astronauts Do If Someone ‘Loses It’ in Space?

What happens if an astronaut goes mad in space? (Image: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain)
What happens if an astronaut goes mad in space? (Image: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain)

What would you do if you were in space and one of your colleagues went nuts and tried to kill everyone on board?

NASA actually has a plan for their astronauts just in case an astronaut turns on their companions.

As it turns out, NASA has written procedures detailing how to deal with a suicidal or psychotic astronaut in space. The documents were obtained by the Associated Press, and state: “The astronaut’s crew mates should bind his wrists and ankles with duct tape, tie him down with a bungee cord, and inject him with tranquilizers if necessary.”

“Talk with the patient while you are restraining him,” the instructions say. “Explain what you are doing, and that you are using a restraint to ensure that he is safe.”

The instructions do not spell out what happens after that. But NASA spokesman James Hartsfield said that a flight surgeon on the ground and the commander in space would decide on a case-by-case basis whether to abort the flight, in the case of the shuttle, or send the astronaut home, if the episode took place on the International Space Station (ISS), wrote CBS News.

CBS went on to write the crew members might have to rely in large part on brute strength to subdue the out of control astronaut, since there are no weapons on the space station or the shuttle. A gun would be out of the question; a bullet could pierce a spaceship and could kill everyone. There are no stun guns on hand either.

“NASA has determined that there is no need for weapons at the space station,” Hartsfield said.

The space station medical kits contain anti-psychotic, anti-depression, anti-anxiety medications and tranquilizers.

The check list also says astronauts can be restrained and then offered oral Haldol, which is an anti-psychotic drug. If the astronaut refuses to cooperate, the drugs can then be forcibly given. Crew members are then instructed to stay with the tied-up astronaut to monitor vital signs.

According to CBS, ISS astronauts talk weekly via a long-distance hook-up to a flight surgeon and every two weeks to a psychologist, so any psychiatric disorder would probably be detected before it became so serious that the astronaut had to be brought home, Hartsfield said.

Well, at least they have thought of it. It has never been reported that this has happened, but that’s not to say it never will.

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