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Fact sheet number: FS-2001-02-36-MSFC
Release date: 02/01

Crewmember and crew-ground interactions during International Space Station Missions

Missions: Expedition Two, 5A.1, STS-102 Space Shuttle Flight, experiment will continue through Expedition Six

Experiment Location on ISS: Human Research Facility Rack

Principal Investigator: Dr. Nick Kanas, Professor of Psychiatry, UCSF Veterans Administration Medical Center, San Francisco, Calif.

Living and working together on an International Space Station - such as the multi-cultural Expedition One crew are doing in the photograph --is definitely different from that of the Space Shuttle missions. Scientists are studying how the crew interacts with others to learn more about how we on Earth can relate more effectively and to prepare future spaceflight crews for long-duration flights. Scientists are studying how the crew interacts with others to learn more about how to prepare future spaceflight crews for long-duration flights. (NASA)


Space flight places humans in an environment unlike any found on Earth. The nearly complete absence of gravity is perhaps the most prominent obstacle that astronauts face. It requires a significant modification of living and working habits by the astronauts. Not only do they have to learn to adapt to the way they perform routine operations, such as eating, moving and operating equipment, but they must also learn to adjust to the internal changes that their bodies experience and to the psychosocial stressors that result from working under isolated and confined conditions.

The Interactions experiment will identify and characterize important interpersonal and cultural factors that may impact the performance of the crew and ground support personnel during International Space Station missions.

The study will examine - as it did in similar experiments on the Russian space station Mir -- issues involving tension, cohesion and leadership roles in the crew in orbit and in the ground support crews. The study will have both the crewmembers and ground control personnel complete a standard questionnaire.

Experiment Operations

International Space Station crewmembers and mission control personnel at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Tx., Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. and Russian Mission Control Center (TsUP) in Moscow will participate in this experiment.

On orbit the questionnaire software will be pre-installed and run on the Human Research Facility Workstation and Portable Computer. Data will be saved to the hard drives and backed-up onto one experiment-specific PCMCIA (Portable Computer Memory Card International Adapter) hard drive. Crewmembers will access the computerized study questionnaire, complete it, and save their data in an encrypted file.

The software has a mood questionnaire, a group and work environment questionnaire, and a critical incident log.

Before and after the flight, the crewmembers will be given several weekly 20-minute questionnaire sessions. During the mission, crewmembers will take the 20-minute questionnaire session every Wednesday.

Ground control subjects will mirror the procedure used for the crew's data collection sessions. The only requirement for control subjects is that they be in the mission control environment for a minimum of three-and-a-half days during the seven days proceeding the data collection session.

Results from the study could help improve the ability of future crewmembers to interact safely and effectively with each other and with mission control; to have a more positive experience in space during multi-cultural, lond-duration missions; and to successfully accomplish mission activities.

The experiments will be performed on Expeditions Two through Six.

Background/Flight History

NASA performed similar "interaction" studies during the Shuttle/Mir program in the late 1990s. That experiment examined the crewmembers' and mission control personnel's perception of tension, cohesion, leadership, and the crew-ground relationship.


Because interpersonal relationships can affect crewmembers in the complicated day-to-day activities they must complete, studies such as this are important to crew health and safety on future long-duration space missions.

Astronauts on long-duration missions will endure isolation and confinement. The methods that crewmembers use to deal with stress, loneliness and the challenge of daily associations with one another will be critical to a mission's success.

Findings from this study will allow researchers to develop actions and methods to reduce negative changes in behavior and reverse gradual decreases in mood and interpersonal interactions during the International Space Station missions -- and even longer missions, such as an expedition to Mars.

The interpersonal interactions of long-duration, multi-national space crews comprise a laboratory for small-group behavior that can tell us a great deal about how people can relate with a minimum of tension and improved cohesion when under stress.

The ability of people from previously opposing political blocks to tackle complex activities -- such as undertaking a space mission or conducting research together -- serves as a model for international cooperation.

More Information

More information on this experiment and other Expedition Two experiments are available at:

Steve Roy
Public Affairs Office
(256) 544-0034

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