Psychology of Space Exploration: Contemporary Research in Historical Perspective

By Douglas A. Vakoch | Go to book overview

Chapter 6
Gender Composition and Crew Cohesion During
Long-Duration Space Missions

Jason P. Kring
Department of Human Factors and Systems
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

Megan A. Kaminski
Program in Human Factors and Applied Cognition
George Mason University


ABSTRACT

A major factor in the success of future long-duration space missions is the psychosocial functioning of the crew. An individual’s psychological health and well-being has a major impact on how well he or she adapts to the demands of isolation, confinement, and workload associated with complex missions. Although each crewmember possesses a unique combination of knowledge, skills, and abilities that influence their capacity to adapt, in this chapter we argue that mission success also relies on how well an individual functions in the larger social context of the mission. More specifically, interactions between crewmembers, as well as between the crew and ground personnel, play a significant role in the crew’s overall performance. Although many variables affect crew interactions, such as opportunities for personal space and privacy afforded by the spacecraft’s architecture, we contend that the most prominent factor is the crew’s composition. Beyond the size of the crew, the mixture of cultural and ethnic backgrounds, and the blend of professional expertise, the most salient crew composition variable is gender.

Since even before Valentina Tereshkova’s flight in 1963, women have played an integral role in the history of human spaceflight. As of April 2010, for instance, 53 different women have flown in space, many as part of mixed-gendered crews aboard Russian space stations or the International Space Station (ISS). The April 2010 flight of Space Shuttle Discovery to the ISS set a record for the most women

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