This technical paper reviews the current literature on psychological issues relevant to astronaut selection for long-duration space flights. Interpersonal problems have been and remain a recurring problem for both short and long-duration space flights. Even after completion of the space mission, intense psychological aftereffects are reported. The specific behavioral problems experienced during United States and Soviet Union space flights are reviewed, specifically addressing contentious episodes and impaired judgments that occurred during the Mercury, Apollos, and Skylab missions. Psychological tests used in the selection process for the space program have focused primarily on the detection of gross psychopathologies in potential candidates. Althought these psychologocial instruments excluded some people from becoming astronauts, the battery of tests failed to predict which individuals would manifest behavioral aberrations in judgment, cooperative functioning, overt irritability, or destructive interpersonal actions.
As mission length, crew size, and diversity increase, behavioral problems can be expected to persist. Therefore, it is recommended that research and development (R&D) be planned to improve the selection of space crews. Such R&D should include the following topical areas: evaluation of the utility of the Personal Attributes Questionnaire (PAQ) masculinity/femininity scale to select androgynous individuals for long-duration space flights; personality and leadership factors important in crew composition, with specific attention to crew compatibility; types of leadership style best suited for short- or long-duration space flights; the determination of that critical point in time during a space flight where the situational factors (such as boredom, crew friction, apathy) become an obstacle to effective leadership; identification of psychological supports or props that can be used to help individuals preserve or restore their emotional stability under conditions of isolation and confinement. Such a comprehensive R&D program is suggested as a possible joint effort between the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the Air Force Human Resources Laboratory.
Collins, Daniel L.
"Psychological Issues Relevant to Astronaut Selection for Long-Duration Space Flight: A Review of the Literature,"
Journal of Human Performance in Extreme Environments: Vol. 7
, Article 1.
Available at: http://docs.lib.purdue.edu/jhpee/vol7/iss1/1