Using a simulated environment to investigate experiences reported during space travel
Astronauts report certain experiences that can be classified as awe and wonder when looking out of their space station or shuttle portals at two different stimuli: the earth and deep space. Based on these reports, it was of interest to further investigate those types of experiences by using a mixed-reality environment resembling an International Space Station workstation designed to expose subjects to simulated stimuli of the earth and deep space. The study is multidisciplinary, involving simulation construction, physiological assessment, psychological testing, textual analysis, and phenomenological interviews. The goal was to induce in the average person the experiences and responses of the astronauts. Preliminary results show promise for using a virtual/mixed-reality environment in a laboratory when assessing cognitive/affective experiences, such as awe and wonder, found in a real-world context.