Psychology of Space Exploration: Contemporary Research in Historical Perspective

By Douglas A. Vakoch | Go to book overview

Foreword

Each month, the cover of Monitor on Psychology, a magazine sent to over one hundred thousand members of the American Psychological Association, reflects intriguing new areas of interest to psychologists who work as researchers, clinicians, consultants, and teachers. The importance of human adaptation to space for contemporary psychologists is suggested by the cover of the March 2008 Monitor, which featured an astronaut drifting in space, with the tranquil blue Earth in the background and the caption “Deep Space Psych” below.

At one level, the essays in this volume provide an overview and synthesis of some of the key issues in the psychology of space exploration, as well as a sampling of highly innovative empirical research. The characteristic that most clearly sets this collection apart from others, however, is the depth with which the authors have engaged the history of the psychology of space exploration.

All psychologists are familiar with the importance of engaging past research and theory while conducting literature reviews in preparation for designing and interpreting new studies. But the contributors to this collection have done much more. They have crafted essays that will be of obvious value to psychologists, psychiatrists, and other behavioral researchers. At the same time, these authors have created a collection with the promise to promote a greater dialogue between psychological researchers and both historians of space exploration and historians of psychology.

Psychologists and historians have quite different criteria for good scholarship and for communicating their findings. These differences make the essays in this volume—meaningful and accessible even to those not formally trained in psychologists’ methodologies and mindsets—all the more impressive. With the increasing specialization and isolation of academic disciplines from one another over the past century, these essays serve as a prototype for a broader attempt to bridge the gap between the two cultures of science and the humanities that C. P. Snow identified almost a half century ago—quite fittingly for us, near the beginning of the Space Age. Let us hope that as we prepare once again to send astronauts beyond Earth’s orbit, we can do so with the guidance of others equally open to seeing beyond their own specialties.

-vii-

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