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Safe Passage: Astronaut Care for Exploration Missions
member of the crew functioning appropriately, both physically and emotionally.
Maintaining a healthy behavioral condition, that is, behavioral health, in such an extreme, isolated microenvironment is, in the committee’s view, critical to the success of the mission and to the return to Earth of normally functioning human beings. Understanding the behavior of individuals in such environments and understanding the interactions of members of a team in prolonged isolation are necessary prerequisites to preventing disruptive behaviors and to dealing with them adequately should they occur. Crew selection and training are also key in the process, but much remains unknown (Box 3).
NASA has taken steps in two areas of importance: it has learned from the experiences of others on missions in analog environments such as operations on research stations in Antarctica, prolonged submarine missions, and deep diving operations; and it has learned about the nature of teams and the interaction of their members. The distinction between missions in low Earth orbit and long-duration missions beyond Earth orbit is that in the latter there is no means of timely return, and all problems, including disruptive behaviors and negative crew interactions, must be dealt with within the spacecraft by the crew.
Historically, crew selection has been an opaque process, in terms both of the individuals selected and of the composition of the crew. Both crew selection and crew composition will assume far greater importance, as the compatibility of individuals has the potential of preventing, to a degree, significant disruptive behaviors. Crew training in positive interactions and conflict resolution, as well as in dealing with adverse behavioral events, will be necessary.
Behavioral health and performance effectiveness present major challenges to the success of missions that involve quantum increases in the time and the distance traveled beyond Earth orbit.
The available evidence-based spaceflight data are insufficient to make an objective evaluation or projection regarding the behavioral health issues that are likely to arise.
The analysis of the complex individual and group habitability interactions that critically influence behavioral health and performance