Are there any indications that Apollo astronauts took any medication to overcome conditions like fear or claustrophobia? Or did NASA rely purely on training to prepare the astronauts for situations in which average people might have simply freaked out?

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    $\begingroup$ Since most of the Apollo crews were test pilots suspect those with any tendency to panic or freeze were already dead. The list of medication carried is at history.nasa.gov/SP-4029/Apollo_18-42_Apollo_Medical_Kits.htm but would involve digging deeper to find out what was used (decongestants have been mentioned). some answers at history.nasa.gov/SP-4029/… $\endgroup$ Nov 13, 2018 at 12:23
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    $\begingroup$ NASA has always been touchy about giving out medical information on the crew. $\endgroup$ Nov 13, 2018 at 15:05
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    $\begingroup$ @uhoh : Yes. You have to have been born with the natural genetic aptitude to not get into fear, so this probably won't change until we can develop transhumanist bio-engineering technologies, dinking around with the wetware so to speak. Like the climber Alex Honnold (look up if don't know) - his natural disposition would suit astronaut perfectly, and that's who you want to find for these missions. $\endgroup$ Nov 14, 2018 at 4:33
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    $\begingroup$ Taking medication to overcome conditions like fear or claustrophobia or to calm their nerves would result in an astronaut unfit for flight, especially for emergency situations. Just read the paper within the medication box about risks and adverse effects. $\endgroup$
    – Uwe
    Nov 14, 2018 at 15:47
  • $\begingroup$ @Uwe But I understand that army snipers will take beta-blockers to help limit unwanted jitters when they're on the job, not to mention the amphetamines you get when you're a fighter pilot... - so there's some similarity to known-events going on at least $\endgroup$
    – Dai
    Sep 30, 2021 at 20:22

3 Answers 3


From the Apollo Program Summary Report:

  • All missions used skin cream to treat irritation caused by the biosensors.

  • Apollo 7: All three crew members developed colds (which led to the infamous "mutiny"). All three were treated with aspirin and Actifed, and did not wear helmets during re-entry.

  • Apollo 8:

    After the Commander's symptoms of motion sickness dissipated, he experienced symptoms of an inflight illness believed to be unrelated to motion sickness. When the Commander was unable to fall asleep 2 hours into his initial rest period, he took a sleeping tablet (Seconal) which induced approximately 5 hours of sleep, described as "fitful." Upon awakening, the Commander felt nauseated and had a moderate occipital headache. He took two aspirin tablets and then went from the sleep station to his couch to rest. The nausea, however, became progressively worse and he vomited twice. After termination of the first sleep period, the Commander also became aware of some increased gastrointestinal distress and was concerned that diarrhea might occur. No medication was taken for this illness, which was described as a "24-hour intestinal flu." (Just prior to launch, an epidemic of acute viral gastroenteritis lasting 24 hours was present in the Cape Kennedy area.)

    page 8-8

  • Apollo 9: Prior to launch, all 3 astronauts developed colds, and the launch was postponed 3 days. During the mission, the Lunar Module Pilot developed motion sickness, vomited twice, and took Seconal several times for sleep.

  • Apollo 10: Aspirin was taken by the crewmen for intestinal gas. The problem was later traced to hydrogen bubbles in the drinking water.

  • Apollo 11: Armstrong and Aldrin each took one Lomotil tablet prior to landing on the lunar surface, to prevent bowel movements. All three took aspirin occasionally, and took scopolamine/dextroamphetamine for motion sickness prior to and after splashdown.

  • Apollo 12: All 3 crewmen occasionally took Actifed for nasal decongestion and aspirin. The Lunar Module Pilot also took Seconal to aid sleep.

  • Apollo 13: The Lunar Module Pilot took two aspirin for a headache, and later vomited. The Command Module Pilot took Lomotil (which I find odd, as Lomotil is for diarrhea, but he had a urinary tract infection). All three took scopolamine/dextroamphetamine for motion sickness prior to re-entry.

  • Apollo 14: The only medication used was nose drops for nasal stuffiness. I'm a little surprised that the guys on the moon didn't take something for anxiety:

    The lunar module crewmen received little, if any, sleep between their two extravehicular activity periods. The lack of an adequate place to rest the head, discomfort of the pressure suit, and a 7-degree starboard list of the lunar module on the lunar terrain were believed responsible for the lack of sleep. The crewmen looked out the window several times during the sleep period for reassurance that the lunar module was not starting to tip over.

    page 8-7

  • Apollo 15: After developing shoulder pain caused by deep core drilling, the Commander took 14 aspirin. The Command Module Pilot used nose drops prior to re-entry to avoid middle ear blockage.

  • Apollo 16: Prior to each of the three days on the moon, the Lunar Module pilot took one Seconal to get to sleep.

  • Apollo 17: This mission carried more medications that the others. All three crewmen used Seconal occasionally for sleep, and simethicone for flatulence caused by the drinking water bubbles. On day 2, the Commander substituted scopolamine/dextroamphetamine for simethicone when he could not locate the latter. The Command Module Pilot and Lunar Module Pilot each took a Lomotil after a loose bowel movement.

Therefore, Seconal would be the medicine of choice for anxiety, and was actually used several times as a sleep aid.

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    $\begingroup$ 14 Aspirin? That's like 4 days of dosage... $\endgroup$
    – Nelson
    Nov 14, 2018 at 2:25
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    $\begingroup$ @Nelson hq.nasa.gov/alsj/a15/ap15mr.pdf confirms, a total of 14 aspirin but doesn't specify over what window. Normal dosage is "325 to 650 mg every three-four hours up to 6 times a day" If the pills were common 150 milligram size then thats only 2100 mg total and could be consumed in 9 hours. $\endgroup$
    – Criggie
    Nov 14, 2018 at 2:57
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    $\begingroup$ @Nelson: "The Commander took 14 aspirin tablets during the last 4 days of the mission to relieve pain in his right shoulder that had developed after difficult deep core tube drilling on the lunar surface." $\endgroup$
    – DrSheldon
    Nov 14, 2018 at 5:46
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    $\begingroup$ @Criggie I looked up a random UK supermarket aspirin and it was 300mg per pill and said that a dose was 1-3 pills, not more than every four hours and not more than 4 doses in 24hrs. So, yeah, it's possible to take a lot of aspirin pills in a short time, and even more with medical advice, which the Apollo astronauts would have had plenty of access to. $\endgroup$ Nov 14, 2018 at 14:23
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    $\begingroup$ "Armstrong and Aldrin each took one Lomotil tablet prior to landing on the lunar surface, to prevent bowel movements." -- A remarkable measure of their dedication to the job. And testimony to how difficult/awful bathroom ops were. $\endgroup$ Nov 14, 2018 at 18:24

Fear and claustrophobia are not in-flight issues. From the very beginning of spaceflight, it was recognized that psychological factors would have to play an important role in astronaut selection:

But the critical elements in the selection, they believed, related more to the psychological than to the physical aspects of spaceflight, for “by far the greatest problem involves the implications of a seemingly complete break from the Earth and the protective societal matrix in a small, isolated, closely confined container with few companions.” An astronaut candidate, they believed, must “manifest intense motivation for the project,” have a strong ability to cooperate to the point that they could place trust and confidence in associates and win the trust and confidence of those associates.

And this screening continued throughout astronaut training:

  • astronauts spend years training inside spacecraft mockups, any claustrophobia issues will have surfaced before flight.
  • Fear is mitigated by training for every possible emergency. During launch, astronauts are calm because they know what to do if anything bad should happen (source: lecture by astronaut André Kuipers).

People who have fear and anxiety issues wash out during training, or conquer their fears.

Early astronauts were selected from the group of test pilots: people that were already selected for their ability to remain calm and function efficiently under stress.

As a result, the Apollo astronauts routinely showed heartrates that ware barely elevated, even in high-stress situations.

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    $\begingroup$ Armstrong's heart rate topped out at 156 bpm during the landing, not "barely" elevated but around twice normal. Heart rates at launch of Apollo 11 ranged from 88 (Aldrin) to 110 (Armstrong). Training didn't quash the physiological stress reactions so much as allow the astronauts to perform through them. $\endgroup$ Jun 24, 2019 at 18:21

"Calm their nerves" is a rather vague term. Severe space motion sickness is a major factor in space flight, and can be completely debilitating. This is a form of nervous system over-activity. Many of the drugs used to treat it on the flight line are mild relaxants, and commonly deployed.

Good review of space motion sickness in Lackner, J.R. & DiZio, P. Exp Brain Res (2006) 175: 377. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00221-006-0697-y

OK review of treatments in Davis, et al., Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine [01 Mar 1993, 64(3 Pt 1):230-233]

  • $\begingroup$ I didn't come up with "Calm their nerves". My initial question was deemed too offensive, as I asked whether astronauts were drugged for their mission. Due to some censorship, this was rectified and "Calm their nerves" was born. I really wanted to figure out, whether a mission like going to the moon, is feasible for the human organism, without the help of some stimuli, i.e. to combat claustrophobia or slow down digestion for obvious reasons, etc. $\endgroup$
    – chris
    Oct 2, 2021 at 8:30

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