Academic journal article Air & Space Power Journal

Psychology of Space Exploration: Contemporary Research in Historical Perspective

Academic journal article Air & Space Power Journal

Psychology of Space Exploration: Contemporary Research in Historical Perspective

Article excerpt

Psychology of Space Exploration: Contemporary Research in Historical Perspective edited by Douglas A. Vakoch. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (http://history.nasa.gov/publications .html), Office of Communications, History Program Office, 300 E Street SW, Washington, DC 20546, 2011, 254 pages, $16.99 (hardcover), ISBN 978-0-16-088358-3. Available free at http://history.nasa.gov /SP-4411.pdf.

This volume, a collection of eight essays along with introductory and closing material, provides varied perspectives on psychology and its relationship to astronauts and the history of space exploration. The chapters cover a variety of subjects: the checkered history of psychology and the US space program (chap. 1), behavioral health (chap. 2), analogs between earth exploration and space exploration (chap. 3), the possibility that taking photos of Earth from space improves the mental health of astronauts (chap. 4), the role of simulators in managing negative interactions in space crews (chap. 5), the effect of gender composition on crew cohesion during long-duration space missions (chap. 6), postmission reflections of multinational space crews (chap. 7), and spaceflight and cross-cultural psychology (chap. 8).

These essays not only span a number of subjects but also utilize multiple approaches. T\vo of the them are heavily statistical in nature, one seeking solid quantitative data to support the idea that taking photos of Earth is a beneficial experience and the other presenting evidence that tensions arise when multinational crew members are guests on the spaceships of other nations. Other chapters prefer a more qualitative approach, the one on spaceflight and cross-cultural psychology using ordinal rankings without known data points to examine such matters as long-term viewpoint between nations as well as patriarchal or matriarchal attitudes (pp. 188-89). In such cases, the lack of relevant data points makes the conclusions a bit tentative at best. In at least one case, the coauthors seek to make a politically motivated point in support of more women in space-a position that the accompanying empirical evidence directly contradicts. They make the entirely unsupported claim that women take a more interpersonal and caring approach when dealing with stress but admit that evidence shows that mixed-gender crews adversely affected performance at Antarctic bases, in naval vessels, and on offshore oil rigs (p. 140). The contributors blame this on immaturity, a lack of training, and poor personnel selection, persisting in supporting their politically motivated point despite the mixed-to-adverse empirical evidence at hand. …

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