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Monday, August 30, 2004



New Article: Psychology and Space Travel

Astronauts on Mars.
Astronauts on Mars.
Credit: NASA
Anna Nicholson-Hutt has sent us a fantastic article, called Psychology and Space Travel: Planning for a Mars Mission, describing some of the hardships that a crew will face in an extended trip to Mars. During selection, crew hopefuls would be subject to intense psychological study to determine which candidates would be most compatible with each other. Using examples from Mir, and other historic explorations on Earth, psychologists better understand how to boost crew morale and maintain a pleasant living environment. Here's a snippet:

Morale presents a third problem. Life on a Mars mission could become both tiresome and stressful due to an unchanging routine and high expectations. The inherent danger of traveling through space requires a level of vigilance that could wear on astronauts already beleaguered by dealing with crew conflicts. Too much work and no play, or vice versa, can cause tensions to rise. In order to prevent a mutiny or psychological meltdown, planning must include ways to invigorate crew morale.

The first way to boost morale involves livening up life on the shuttle or at the base. Variety must pepper the routine of the crew in order to prevent boredom. Diversions such as card games and movies have been used by polar explorers to enhance morale (Sargent, 4). Competitions provide some relief, as long as they are not taken too seriously. Astronauts should be encouraged to continue pursuing their hobbies. Even meals can provide a way to improve performance: with varied foods, astronauts can enjoy and even look forward to the novelty of each meal (Cheston). When used along with a known routine and set of duties for each crew member, variety can be very effective in boosting morale.


This is a well-written article that not only flows pleasantly, but reflects the high level of research that surely went into it.


- posted by Alex @ 13:23 EST