Status Report

Crewmember and Crew-ground Interactions During International Space Station Missions (Interactions): Results

By SpaceRef Editor
November 11, 2001
Filed under , ,


In progress

have been conducted studies on human factors, such as crew interactions
and spacecraft environment/crew function, throughout the space program. 
Nick Kanas, principal investigator for the Interactions study, headed
up an international team that conducted a similar study using Shuttle/Mir
crews. Flight and ground crews, which included five astronauts, eight
cosmonauts, 42 U.S. and 16 Russian mission control personnel, completed
weekly questionnaires on their respective work environments and team leadership,
cohesion, and dynamics. The biggest barrier to a healthy and constructive
flight crew/ground crew relationship was a phenomenon called "displacement,"
where individuals displace tensions and feelings of dissatisfaction to
those outside. For example, when the flight crew expressed tension and
unhappiness, they also expressed the belief that the ground crew didn’t
care about them and weren’t providing adequate support. Also, further
into missions, crew members were more likely to state that they felt they
were receiving less support from their crew’s leader. This impression
was particularly present among the astronauts. Kanas noted in his study
findings that this was likely a consequence of being a lone American on
a Russian-led, Russian-language mission. This sense of isolation, of being
in a foreign environment away from family and friends, was also present
in the U.S. ground crews, who were sent to Russia to support the missions.

As a result of
these findings, countermeasures have been introduced, including preflight
training to help crews understand and deal positively with personal stress
and intercultural tensions. The Interactions study will assess the effectiveness
of this training, and will help researchers refine this training and develop
new protocols to support a multinational Station crew.

Picture of Yuri Gridzenko with communication headset on.
Gridzenko communicates with ground crew during Increment 1.
Effective communications with ground crew in the United States
and Russia plays an important role in mission success.


findings of Interactions will improve the ability of future crew members
and ground personnel to work together, ensuring the efficiency and success
of each mission.  Researchers will be able to positively address changes
in crew mood and productivity through updated or new methods of screening,
training, in-flight counseling, and communication with family and friends. 
Simple changes to exercise regimes, recreational time and facilities, or
Station environment may improve the overall flight experience.

learned on Station will then be applied to future long-duration space
missions outside low Earth orbit.  Furthermore, methods used to keep
Station and ground crew productivity and morale high can be applied to
Earth analogs, such as submarines, Antarctic research stations, and other
isolated locations where group communication is important and moral is
critical to job performance and the quality of daily life. Strategies
used to achieve esprit de corps in a stressful environment like
the Station can help create team cohesion in increasingly
diverse, multicultural, and multinational workplaces

Related Publications

  • W.S.
    Weed. 2001. Can
    we go to Mars without going crazy?
    Discover 22(5).

  • N.
    Kanas, V. Salnitskiy, E.M. Grund, V. Gushin, O. Kozerenko, A. Sled, and
    C.R. Marmar. 2000. Human interactions in space: results from Shuttle/Mir.”
    Proceedings of the 13th IAA Humans in Space Symposium, International
    Astronautical Association, Santorini, Greece, May 20-26. 

  • NASA.1999.
    Extended Duration Orbiter Medical Project Final Report:  1989-1995
    Houston, Tex.: Johnson Space Center: 6:1-13.

  • Kanas
    Honored for Research on Psychological Effects of Space Travel
    . UCSF’s
    Electronic Daily Daybreak News (1999).

    Web Sites

  • Spaceline: Psychosocial effects of long-duration space flight analyzed in Shuttle/Mir studies (PDF file)

  • SpaceRef staff editor.