Constellation: Why Are Jo and Henry Hallucinating?

In Apple TV+’s psychological thriller series ‘Constellation,’ the protagonist Jo Ericsson, an astronaut who returns to the Earth from the International Space Station, and Henry Caldera, a former astronaut who had been to the moon as part of the Apollo 18 mission, deal with severe hallucinations. Jo sees two versions of her daughter Alice, which makes her question who is her real child. Henry, on the other hand, sees ghostly human body remains when he looks at his colleague and companion Irene Lysenko. Since both of them worked as astronauts, there can be a simple explanation behind their hallucinations but the science-fiction drama provokes us enough to delve deeper into their psyche! SPOILERS AHEAD.

The Mystery Behind Jo and Henry’s Hallucinations

Over the years, in reality, several astronauts have dealt with strange experiences that were later deemed as hallucinations. Through the show, creator Peter Harness wanted to shed light on these often-neglected experiences. “It is true that there are these vivid ghost stories about weird things that have happened in space. [For example,] the Salyut 7 crew who saw angels, that’s a true story. They also see flashes of light that pass through their hands and out the other side and they can’t explain it,” Harness told Radio Times. He crafted the series after speaking with individuals associated with the European Space Agency and NASA to authentically portray these experiences.

Jo’s experiences can be seen as a representation of these real-life occurrences that had puzzled numerous astronauts like her. In 1976, the crew members of the Russian Soyuz-21 mission claimed that they smelled an acrid smell aboard the Salyut-5 space station, forcing the officials to bring them back to Earth earlier than expected. However, no such odor was eventually found and the reports of “interpersonal issues” and “psychological problems” convinced NASA to conclude that the smell was probably a hallucination. Experts believe that isolation in a high-pressure, high-risk environment could affect the astronauts psychologically, which explains why Jo sees a cupboard and the necklace of her daughter Alice in a hallway inside the ISS.

It is important to note that Jo hallucinates the cupboard after she becomes the sole astronaut in the International Space Station. The possibility of not seeing her daughter alive again must have severely affected her psychologically. Jo seeing a different version of Alice can be an aftermath of this experience as well. But it doesn’t mean that everything she sees is her hallucination, most prominently the supposed dead cosmonaut who apparently hit the ISS to cause an accident. Jo may have seen a real corpse, which possibly belongs to none other than Irene Lysenko, the head of Roscosmos.

When Jo discusses the encounter with her colleagues, they mention how the spacesuit of the corpse is similar to the one worn by Irene. In another scene, Henry asks Irene about her sister, only for the latter to get provoked and say that her sibling is dead. The Irene who spearheads the space programs of Roscosmos can be the apparently dead sister, who swapped identities for personal gains. She must have taken advantage of the likely late Irene’s legacy and created a fake story to explain the death of her real identity. This can also be why she is in a hurry to establish that the corpse is just the imagination of Jo.

If that’s the case, why Henry is hallucinating things, especially since he completed his space mission likely decades ago? The secret may lie in the red and yellow pill all of the astronauts have been consuming. The tagline of the series is, “Reality is a conspiracy.” The reality behind the hallucinations can be a part of a greater conspiracy involving the powerful space agencies involved in the lives of these former or present astronauts. Through the red and yellow pills they have been giving individuals like Jo, Henry, and Bud, they can be trying to control their minds.

The third episode of the series ends with Bud blaming Henry for how the Apollo 18 mission turned out, which indicates that the latter was involved in several classified actions. If that’s the case, his superiors may want him not to become a threat to them. The best way to do that is to control his mind so that anything threatening he raises can be dismissed on the grounds of his hallucinations.

Read More: Constellation Tribute: Who Were Dirk Heidemann, Bobby McGee, and Simone Bär?