Psychology of Space Exploration: Contemporary Research in Historical Perspective

By Douglas A. Vakoch | Go to book overview

Chapter 3
From Earth Analogs to Space: Getting There from Here

Sheryl L. Bishop
Department of Preventive Medicine and Community Health and School of Nursing
University of Texas Medical Branch


ABSTRACT

The need to find relevant terrestrial substitutes, that is, analogs, for teams operating in extraterrestrial and microgravity environments is driven by extraordinary demands for mission success. Unlike past frontiers where failure on the part of various groups to succeed represented far more limited implications for continued progress within these environments, accidents like Challenger in 1986 and Columbia in 2003 underscored the magnified cost of failure for space missions. Where past human frontiers were characterized by centralized decisions to engage in exploration and development largely under the dictates of authoritarian governments or individual sponsors, the exploration of space has been significantly influenced by the general public’s perception of “acceptable risk” and fiscal worthiness. To date, space missions have failed due to technological deficiencies. However, history is replete with examples of exploration and colonization that failed due to human frailties, including those that reflect failures of the group. Both historical literature and research on teams operating within extreme environments, including space, have clearly indicated that psychological and sociocultural factors are components critical for individual and group success. Given the limited access to the space frontier and the investment in collective effort and resources, our ability to study individual and group functioning in the actual space environment has been, and will continue to be, severely limited. Thus, studying groups in terrestrial extreme environments as analogs has been sought to provide predictive insight into the many factors that impact group performance, health, and well-being in challenging environments.

This chapter provides an overview of the evolution of research utilizing terrestrial analogs and addresses the challenges for selecting, training, and supporting teams for long-duration space missions. An examination of how analog

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