The New York Times

The New York Times 28 Apr 2020

Social Distancing Is Hard. This Astronaut Has Some Advice

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In the video Op-Ed above, the retired NASA astronaut Nicole Stott reflects on the three months she spent on the International Space Station, far from her husband and 7-year-old son. Living on the space station, being alone on a spacewalk, watching lightning storms crisscross the planet — all these experiences taught her that we're all inherently connected, even when we're physically far away.

In space, crew members had to make individual sacrifices for the survival of the spacecraft and success of the mission — and a safe return home.

"Nothing beats that first hug after landing," she said.

It's worth it in the end.


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Zoom has gained an incredible amount of popularity, but that popularity comes at a cost. The company is under intense scrutiny now that hundreds of millions of people are using the platform. But Zoom is in the game for the long haul, if it can survive a post-COVID-19 world, and can continue to fix privacy complaints as they come up.

With millions of people being forced to stay home to help stop the spread of COVID-19, many have found creative ways to virtually stay social through happy hours, trivia nights and birthday parties. And Zoom, one of the dozens of video conferencing services, has risen to the top, thanks to intense separation measures and a profound resonance within this new social distancing culture.

Daily downloads of the Zoom app have increased 30x year-over-year and the app has been the top free app for iPhones in the United States since March 18, according to Bernstein Research and Apptopia. Zoom said daily users spiked to 200 million in March, up from 10 million in December. 

But it hasn't been without scrutiny. Privacy concerns have been rising around Zoom, including "Zoombombing," where a malicious user will join a Zoom meeting and show explicit or disturbing images. CEO Eric Yuan apologized on Thursday for the security lapses and outlined what the company is doing to fix those problems.

Watch the video to learn how Zoom became the go-to platform, how it is handling the influx of users and whether the company's success can be sustained after offices open back up.

… show captions ↓
[MUSIC PLAYING]
I know you're probably feeling a bit disoriented right now.
Maybe you're feeling a little cut
off from humanity, or that you're just
kind of drifting in space.
I know what that's like.
My name is Nicole Stott.
I'm an artist, a mom and a wife,
and I'm a retired NASA astronaut.
These days I've been thinking a lot about the many months
I spent on the International Space Station,
250 miles above the planet, separated from my family
and friends, essentially quarantined with just
my five crewmates.
Being in space changed me profoundly.
The lessons it taught me are really helping me
get through this time right now.
The most difficult thing psychologically to me
about being in space, you still
miss that physical, human connection.
We would do virtual hugs, or put our faces
up close to the camera, like we were kissing each other.
[SMOOCH]
Just because I wasn't physically with the people
that I love, I didn't feel cut off from them.
And even looking out the window at Earth
helped me feel connected to those people.
[MUSIC PLAYING]
I have this vivid memory of seeing thunderstorms
from space.
It's like these tentacles of light
just moving from one place and wrapping around the Earth.
The planet looks like it's alive.
Getting a new perspective on something
helped me find ways to connect with it that I hadn't before.
During this pandemic, I'm trying
to do that through my window here at home.
Taking advantage of the time that I
have to look around me and see things a little bit
differently, opening myself up to the opportunity
that there might be something new to see or hear
in this backyard that I've spent so much time before in.
I think it's really important to just appreciate
the moment that you're in.
And all those months I was in space,
the time I felt most isolated was during my spacewalk.
[SOLEMN MUSIC PLAYING]
And I remember thinking, oh my gosh.
I am like all by myself out here
and the farthest person away from Earth,
and feeling a little bit alone,
and yet more connected to everyone around me
than I had before too.
I knew that there were people that had my back.
Even though I couldn't see them,
I knew there were a lot of people
that were caring about what was happening to me.
[MUSIC PLAYING]
The way we peacefully and successfully
achieve our missions on a space station
is the same way we should be doing it down here on Earth.
We need to be behaving like crew
members on Spaceship Earth and not just passengers.
And that's what I think is really going to carry forward
after all this.
"The gears down and locked.
Main gear touchdown."
We might not want to be self-isolating and social
distancing.
But by doing it as a crew, we'll
come out on the other side for the better.
And it'll be worth it, because let me tell you, nothing
beats that first hug after landing.
It reminded me what normal feels like, what life is
supposed to be like.
[MUSIC PLAYING]

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