This study assessed the intrapersonal and interpersonal functioning of a three-couple expedition group that included a 2 1/2-year-old child which was ice-locked on a boat in the High Arctic during a major portion of the expedition. Personality assessment indicated that team members were generally well adjusted, scoring relatively higher on well-being and achievement and relatively lower on stress reactivity. Weekly mood ratings showed that the group exhibited significantly higher positive than negative affect. Reported negative events were relatively most frequent at the beginning of the Arctic stay and toward the end of the darkness period and were lowest during the initial darkness interval. The period of darkness had both a salutary and negative impact. A highly important means of coping with stress was seeking emotional support from one's partner. Selection of couples with strong bonds with their partner appears to be one viable approach for crew selection for long-duration missions.
The 520-day experimental simulation of an exploration mission provided an opportunity to apply content analysis for studying the patterns of crew--Control center (CC) communication impeded by lag times. The period of high autonomy was featured by drastic reduction of the number of crew questions and requests which was judged as a marker of adaptation to the simulated space mission environment. The "key" events in the experiment changed the content of crew messages radically attesting to misperception of time, emotional involvement, want of CC feedback and draining out negative emotions. After the period of high autonomy with full loss of communication with controllers the traffic of crew messages onto the outside was noted to become very light which could also point to temporal changes in the communication style developed in the conditions of isolation and autonomous existence.
In both the Russian and U.S. space programs, crew safety and mission success have at times been jeopardized by critical incidents related to psychological, behavioral, and interpersonal aspects of crew performance. The modes used for handling interpersonal conflict may play a key role in such situations.
This study analyzed conflict-handling modes of three crews of four people each before and after a 264-d spaceflight simulation that was conducted in Russia in 1999-2000. Conflict was defined as a situation in which the concerns of two or more individuals appeared to be incompatible. Participants were assessed using the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument, which uses 30 forced-choice items to produce scores for five modes of conflict handling. Results were compared to norms developed using managers at middle and upper levels of business and government.
Both before and after isolation, average scores for all crews were above 75% for Accommodating, below 25% for Collaborating, and within the middle 50% for Competing, Avoiding, and Compromising. Statistical analyses showed no significant difference between the crews and no statistically significant shift from pre- to post-isolation.
A crew predisposition to use Accommodating most and Collaborating least may be practical in experimental settings, but is less likely to be useful in resolving conflicts within or between crews on actual flights. Given that interpersonal conflicts exist in any environment, crews in future space missions might benefit from training in conflict management skills.
The article deals with positive personal transformations in a simulated space mission. The investigation was focused on the aspects of control locus, stamina, proactive behavior to overcome challenges, and stress-related personal growth. Besides, ingenious psychophysiological techniques designed to select Russian cosmonauts were used for assessing stress-resistance and ability to control own emotions voluntarily. Experiment Mars-500 simulated the basic features of a mission to Mars. The crew consisted of 6 males 27 to 38 years of age who volunteered to spend 520 days in isolation and confinement in the IBMP experimental facility (Moscow). To detect personality changes, the volunteers were tested before the experiment and after its completion. According to the test results, the participants commonly demonstrated the ability to see the bright side of the Mars-500 adversities, which most often was caused by their social growth. Positive changes were particularly pronounced in the crewmembers who possessed a better ability to control own emotions. The simulated challenges were also beneficial for personal growth of the volunteers.
Reports from astronauts and cosmonauts, studies from space analogue environments on Earth, and our previous research on the Mir Space Station have identified a number of psychosocial issues that can lead to problems during long-duration space missions. Three of these issues (time effects, displacement, leader role) were studied during a series of long-duration missions to the International Space Station (ISS).
As in our previous Mir study, mood and group climate questions from the Profile of Mood States or POMS, the Group Environment Scale or GES, and the Work Environment Scale or WES were completed weekly by 17 ISS crewmembers (15 men, 2 women) in space and 128 American and Russian personnel in mission control.
The results did not support the presence of decrements in mood and group cohesion during the 2nd half of the missions or in any specific quarter. The results did support the predicted displacement of negative feelings to outside supervisors in both crew and mission control subjects on all six questionnaire subscales tested. Crewmembers related cohesion in their group to the support role of their commander. For mission control personnel, greater cohesion was linked to the support role as well as to the task role of their leader.
The findings from our previous study on the Mir Space Station were essentially replicated on board the ISS. The findings suggest a number of countermeasures for future on-orbit missions, some of which may not be relevant for expeditionary missions (e.g., to Mars).
Two space simulation studies for the European Space Agency found that interpersonal tension increased in the beginning, around the middle, and toward the end of the confinement. This article reports data from a third study where this issue was further examined. Three subjects were confined in the MIR space station simulator in Moscow for 135 days. Communication analysis, peer rating, questionnaires, and interviews were used to assess crew tension. The temporal pattern found in this study corresponds to the previous findings. The beginning of the period was characterized by competition over leadership. Decreased crew cohesion and aggression toward the mission control marked the middle of the confinement. In the final weeks, open conflicts emerged, and one member was socially excluded. Joking occurred frequently in the first half of the confinement, whereas negative emotional expressions increased in the second half. These results might assist planners in anticipating behavioral problems during space missions.
The American and Russian/Soviet space programs independently uncovered psychosocial risks inherent in long-duration space missions. Now that these two countries are working together on the International Space Station (ISS), American-Russian cultural differences pose an additional set of risk factors. These may echo cultural differences that have been observed in the general population of the two countries and in space analogue settings, but little is known about how relevant these are to the select population of space program personnel. The evidence for the existence of mission-relevant cultural differences is reviewed and includes cultural values, emotional expressivity, personal space norms, and personality characteristics. The review is focused primarily on Russia and the United States, but also includes other ISS partner countries. Cultural differences among space program personnel may have a wide range of effects. Moreover, culture-related strains may increase the probability of distress and impairment. Such factors could affect the individual and interpersonal functioning of both crewmembers and mission control personnel, whose performance is also critical for mission safety and success. Examples from the anecdotal and empirical literature are given to illustrate these points. The use of existing assessment strategies runs the risk of overlooking important early warning signs of behavioral health difficulties. By paying more attention to cultural differences and how they might be manifested, we are more likely to detect problems early while they are still mild and resolvable.
The space venture resembles other extreme environmental exploration in many respects. Since the beginning of the space program, social and behavioral scientists have predicted that space crews increasingly will begin to experience the kinds of deviant behaviors seen in other extreme environmental duty settings as mission duration, crew size, and heterogeneity increases. However, there has been a long history of neglect by the nation's space agency of those psychosocial human factors which will play such a vital role in future manned spaceflight. The author argues that this is counterproductive, even dangerous, and that social and behavioral studies must be conducted to generate baseline data regarding dysfunctional acts in extreme environments, including the milieu of the space mission. An obstacle to studying occurrences and frequencies of deviant acts is the absence of a standardized definition of such acts in the extreme environment. Borrowing the sanitized NASA term "off-nominal", which generally refers to a maladaptive action, a preliminary reliability test was conducted among five scientists who work with human interaction in extreme environments. They were asked to rate situations from several actual space and polar expeditions for numbers of off-nominal acts. They were told the object of the exercise was to derive a standardized definition and were not provided with any specific definition of off-nominality. Substantial agreement in their ratings provided reliable information to construct a working definition of off-nominality. Various interactions and behaviors which respondents deemed off-nominal could be subsumed under poor expertise, mental disorder, forms of abuse and interpersonal insensitivity, problems of authority and responsibility, task deficits, poor hygiene and fitness, poor field-base communication, and human error with equipment from violating safety procedures and poor judgment as to its usage.
To improve the interpersonal climate of crewmembers involved with long-duration space missions, it is important to understand the factors affecting their interactions with each other and with members of mission control. This paper will present findings from a recently completed NASA-funded study during the Shuttle/Mir program which evaluated in-group/out-group displacement of negative emotions; changes in tension, cohesion, and leader support over time; and cultural differences. In-flight data were collected from 5 astronauts, 8 cosmonauts, and 42 American and 16 Russian mission control personnel who signed informed consent. Subjects completed a weekly questionnaire that assessed their mood and perception of their work group's interpersonal climate using questions from well-known, standardized measures (Profile of Mood States, Group and Work Environment Scales) and a critical incident log. There was strong evidence for the displacement of tension and dysphoric emotions from crewmembers to mission control personnel and from mission control personnel to management. There was a perceived decrease in commander support during the 2nd half of the missions, and for American crewmembers a novelty effect was found on several subscales during the first few months on-orbit. There were a number of differences between American and Russian responses which suggested that the former were less happy with their interpersonal environment than the latter. Mission control personnel reported more tension and dysphoria than crewmembers, although both groups scored better than other work groups on Earth. Nearly all reported critical incidents came from ground subjects, with Americans and Russians showing important differences in response frequencies.