View Full Version : Space Madness in Long Duration mission - myth or reality ?

Launch window
2005-Aug-01, 07:27 PM
Would astronauts go crazy in Space ? I've seen it described on one website like something out of a Stephen King book.

Do any of you guys think there are psychological aspects to a long manned mission to Mercury or Mars ? Can astronauts or cosmonauts go crazy from zero g and will the long journey bring dangers of crew going nuts
is this SpaceMadness real or is it an exaggerated like some urban legend ?

Captain Kidd
2005-Aug-01, 07:39 PM
Cabin fever might be a bit of a problem. Same walls, same faces day in and day out. Granted they'd be able to communicate with Earth and talk with family/friends (taking into accunt the transmission delay).

However, they're going to have to make sure they choose the right people who can live OK in a confined space. I couldn't do it; after a day or two my house gets too small and I have to get outside.

Gullible Jones
2005-Aug-01, 08:01 PM
Astronauts would get awfully irritable, and relationships would get strained... But if they were were mentally healthy to start with, they wouldn't become sociopaths.

2005-Aug-01, 08:21 PM
I don't know about astronauts, but I would think that the Soviet and US navies would have a ton of data about this with submarine crews, particularly with nuclear subs that could be submerged for extended periods of time.

Manchurian Taikonaut
2005-Aug-01, 08:34 PM
Valentin Lebedev and Anatoly Berezovoi set a long record of six months plus in space but had such serious personality conflicts that they haven't spoken to one another since. A recent joint venture between the European Space Agency (ESA), the French space agency (CNES), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) is looking at a 60-day Female Bed-Rest Study. European Space Agency's future plans for human space exploration, the results expected from this research will prove valuable in planning long-duration human missions. E.S.A are planning to send women to the moon and they are looking for volunteers, a journey beyond Mars would take years and having a crew of men and women would help benefit the journey in many ways such as there have been probelms on the Russian spacestations when it comes to stress and orders. Tastes change. According to Alexander Sled, a clever-looking psychologist with black hair and beard who works closely with Kozerenko, early on the crew might express a preference for classical music and later choose popular songs. The psychologists have sent videotapes of conventional Earth scenes, such as forests or seacoasts, on the theory that it would ease the ache in their hearts for their home planet, but the cosmonauts don't seem to spend much time watching them. They're boring. Generally cosmonauts prefer comedies or adventures. The cosmonauts' sense of taste loses its edge over time (a side effect of congestion from the shift of body fluids into their heads); consequently, psychologists send them foods with strong flavors. According to other Russian reports, at least three missions have been aborted for reasons that were in part psychological.When American and Russians did joint missions, personality differences were sometimes exacerbated by cultural misunderstandings. Astronaut Norm Thagard experienced isolation not only from his Russian crewmates, but also from his supposed supporters at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. He complained to Mr. Zimmerman, "NASA didn't do squat." Mr. Zimmerman pointed out further, "During the entire shuttle-Mir program, NASA seemed oblivious to the needs of the astronauts sent to Russia." During long-duration space missions, psychiatric problems have been reported anecdotally in the past and may compromise crewmembers in the future. Russian space psycholgists have identified asthenia as a common space syndrome.

The idea of a submarine crew is oftentimes different from a space crew while the sub crew know that if they are ever in trouble they can surface, call for help and they will be safe in a matter of hours while a space crew face different dangers. Tight quarters, lack of privacy, and disruption of the terrestrial cycle of night and day can upset even the hardiest astronaut. Star City psychologists talk to the crew and their support team about some of the personality factors they have observed in them during their training. Russians lead the world in the field of psychology in space. In several cases, Russians have identified potential problems with candidates for long-duration flights long before their host agencies. During long-duration space missions such as a trip to Mars, the interpersonal environment of the crewmembers will be of critical importance in order to fulfill mission goals. Tensions frequently spill over to mission control, as they did in the Skylab strike. One Russian crew aboard a Salyut space station reportedly got so angry at mission control that the cosmonauts shut down communications for 24 hours. Cosmonaut Vasily Tsibliyev lost his sister while he was in orbit in 1993, and his stepfather while on Mir in 1997. In both cases, ground control did not tell him until his return. Alexander Laveikin was brought back early from the Soyuz TM-2 mission to Mir in 1987 because he complained of a cardiac irregularity. According to flight surgeons, there had been no sign of it before flight, nor could they find any sign of it in flight or afterwards. The cosmonaut had been under stress--he had made a couple of potentially serious errors. Later, he complained of the arrhythmia. He also had not been getting along with his partner, Yuri Romanenko. If this is what happens to astronauts in orbit for months, what can NASA expect on even longer missions ?

2005-Aug-01, 08:36 PM
It would be a psychological barrier, but scientists and astronauts going up to space are extensively screened beforehand. I'd imagine the greatest threat is boredom leading to fatigue and inattention. Specifically, it would be best to send along mini-missions to be conducted en-route, and analysis kits for elements brought back, preferably ones taking months at a time such as growing plants. A job to keep them busy.

I seriously doubt "space madness" would set in, however. In addition to the reams of data dealing with isolation, interaction, and stress, the astronauts on ISS and Mir before it had the language barrier, and now (and previously with Mir) the weekly crisis.

"Doh! And now the Mir's fan belt has snapped!" - Tom Servo of MST3K

[edited to add] Given the tome put up by MT above, I withdraw my comment as a cursory and feeble analysis at best.