Psychology of Space Exploration: Contemporary Research in Historical Perspective

By Douglas A. Vakoch | Go to book overview

Chapter 8
Spaceflight and Cross-Cultural Psychology

Juris G. Draguns
Department of Psychology
Pennsylvania State University

Albert A. Harrison
Department of Psychology
University of California, Davis


ABSTRACT

In the first decade of spaceflight, the United States and the Soviet Union were locked in relentless competition, but in 1975, the two nations joined together for the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project. In 1978, the Soviets began their Interkosmos, or “guest cosmonaut,” program, whereby non-Soviet cosmonauts, mostly drawn from Eastern Bloc nations, joined Soviet crews on Salyut space stations. Meanwhile, in 1969, the United States invited Europeans to participate in post-Apollo flights, and the Europeans developed Spacelab, which first flew with the Space Shuttle Columbia in 1983. Over the years, the largely symbolic Interkosmos program grew into flights involving true partnerships between Soviets and non-Soviets, while U.S. flights drew payload specialists from many different lands. In the early 1990s, astronauts joined cosmonauts on Mir, and today the International Space Station routinely carries multicultural crews. Experience gained during early international missions revealed problems in such diverse areas as mission organization and management, work habits, communication, interpersonal relations, privacy, personal cleanliness habits, food preferences, and leisure-time activities. We introduce the culture assimilator as a potential aid in preparing spacefarers for international missions. We then explore cultural dimensions based on worldwide studies of values in work environments and trace their implications for international flights. To conclude, we sound a note of caution against reifying cultural differences lest they give rise to harmful stereotypes. Even as international missions will benefit from

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