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Description: So just what are the psychological consequences of spending a long time (1 year) in space? Well from 2001 a Space Odyssey to Interstellar there has been a lot of science fiction film speculation but what do we know from a scientific point of view. Quite a bit actually.

Source: PA Pacific Standard: What Spending a Year in Space Does to Your Mind — It’s stressful, but transcendental too.

Date: March 24, 2015



NASA and the Russian Federated Space Agency are each sending a man into space to stay on the international space station for a year. We can predict something of how their prolonged experience with zero gravity (Morphew, 2001) will affect them physically, (decreased bone density and muscle mass) but how will it affect them psychologically. Well, American Scott Kelly and Russian Mikhail Kornienko are going to provide psychologists with a lot of psychological data during their upcoming year in space completing cognitive tests and regularly writing journal entries that will later be reviewed by psychologists.

NASA has been a bit vague about how it selects potential; space station astronauts from a psychological point of view – generally preferring individuals who are easygoing, resilient and have good social skills (so they will get along with their fellow astronauts in close quarters). There has been some work of the subject of space psychology. Depression and conflicts can arise during such missions (Harrison, 2004) and earlier research suggests that anxiety, depression, psychosis and psychosomatic symptoms can also arise (Kanas, 1990).

To make things easier NASA has provided astronauts with inter-cultural training (as they will be living in space with Russians). As well NASA has developed a software program with cognitive behavioral techniques built in to assist astronauts in dealing with depression in in-mission conflict.

Three may be some positive psychological experiences for the astronauts to look forward to including increases in fortitude, perserverence3, independence, self-reliance, ingenuity, comradeship and perhaps even some transcendental experiences (have you seem Interstellar yet?). We await the data on this interesting psychological experiment.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What aspects of prolonged space time might have psychological impact and why?
  2. Do you think that astronauts should be selected for the psychology of space time or should they be trained for it?
  3. What earth-bound professions or situations might prepared or select people for space travel??

References (Read Further):

Harrison, Albert quoted in Sadie Dingfelder (2004), Mental preparation for Mars: Psychologists craft systems to lessen the mental strains astronauts might face 100 million miles away from earth. APA Monitor, 35(7), 24.

Kanas, Nick (1990) Psychological, psychiatric, and interpersonal aspects of long-duration space missions, Journal of Spacecraft and Rockets, 27(5) 547-463.

Kanas, Nick et al., (2009) Psychology and culture during long-duration space missions, Acta Astronautica, 64(7-8) 659-677.

Treating depression with Virtual Space Station James Cartreine Interview,

Morphew, M. E. (2001). Psychological and human factors in long duration spaceflight. McGill Journal of Medicine, 6(1), 74-80.