ports the assumption that emotional or social problems could develop, and over months and years, these problems could grow to the point at which they disable an astronaut and limit crew effectiveness. Such evidence comes from three sources (Box 5–1): (1) anecdotal reports from astronauts and cosmonauts, (2) summary information from NASA on the incidence of adverse behavioral health events during space missions, and (3) findings from analog environments such as crews aboard submarine patrols or wintering over in the Antarctic. The 1998 report, A Strategy for Research in Space Biology and Medicine in the New Century (SSB and NRC, 1998a), also indicates the importance of a number of psychosocial issues.
Performance decrements are usually transient, although behavioral data from more extended missions have not been easy to access. The validity and reliability of participant self-reports, anecdotal and otherwise, as well as those of official reports, have been difficult to both access and evaluate, at least in part because of the traditional reluctance of flight-qualified individuals to be forthcoming about such behavioral health events. Moreover, the extent to which available accounts are representative of astronauts’ experiences in general is not easily determined. The available, evidence-based data from space missions are thus clearly insufficient for the committee to make an objective evaluation or projection of the behavioral health issues likely to be involved in long-duration space missions beyond Earth orbit.
However, the available database from analog settings such as undersea and polar environments (Box 5–1) may be informative, at least to some ex-
BOX 5–1 Evidence of Emotional or Social Problems on Short-Duration Missions
Astronaut and Cosmonaut Reports of Personal and Social Problems of Adaptation
The diaries of cosmonauts and astronauts who have spent long periods of time in space describe some of the personal and social problems of adaptation that can occur during long-duration space missions. For example, cosmonaut Valentine Lebedev (1988), who usually had a relatively sunny disposition, described his mood turning distinctly sour relatively early during his 211-day space mission on Salyut 7. By the 9th day he had a conflict with his fellow crewmember (p. 39). Just over 2 months into the mission he said, “My nerves were always on edge, I get jumpy at any minor irritation.” About half way through the trip, his anxiety interfered with his sleep (p. 291). As with cosmonauts and astronauts alike, however, he kept his feelings to himself (p. 158).