The Psychology of Orbital Human Factors

T. Stephen Cheston
Georgetown University

I. Introduction

One of the many secondary outcomes of the manned space program is the stimulation of the behavioral and social sciences toward greater precision in predicting human behavior (1). Prediction of human behavior long has served as the basic disciplinary conversation of psychology, which makes this topic of inquiry particularly amenable to scientific study (2). This secondary impact of the space program is a consequence of the requirement to understand human needs and behaviors during space operations. The study of this subject is designated by the term orbital human factors (OHF).

The near-term state of space technology dictates that the human presence in space will be confined to vehicles and facilities that permit only limited physical movement and separate individuals from the broader community of family and social relationships. The Space Shuttle and even the proposed orbiting Space Operations Center (SOC) will be relatively small facilities which become the entire, if temporary, world of the astronauts or space workers on board. The length of space duty will vary from a few days to a number of months and will be roughly analogous to living in the space available on an airliner for lengths of time comparable to ocean voyages in previous centuries. Because of the relatively high expense of placing and supporting people in space, planners have a strong impulse to maximize space personnel work performance. A breakdown or a mere slowdown in work performance can produce dramatic effects on overall mission success.

In the early days of the space program, only a handful of people actually ventured into space. These pioneers were test-pilot astronauts who tried out the machinery and confronted the space environment for the first time. The small number of required people combined with the large pool of high-quality applicants to produce a cadre of outstanding individuals. The early astronauts demonstrated extraordinary abilities and commitment and received a high degree of social reinforcement from media attention. These characteristics allowed NASA planners a certain latitude to assign heavy workloads with a high assurance of success, even under occasionally high-stress conditions. However, in the future this latitude will disappear as the type of human presence in space changes. Missions will become repetitive, thus losing both their novelty and the intense media attention that stimulated the accompanying strong social reinforcement. As a discipline, psychology will need to carefully and thoroughly address the possibility of self-generated reinforcement strategies that can be taught to crew members to enhance their sense of personal and professional accomplishment. Indeed, this question of self-directed behavior and reinforcement already has been addressed in psychological literature (3).

In comparison to earlier missions, work assignments on the Shuttle or the SOC will require greater divisions of labor and more diverse types of personnel on board. Such mission characteristics also influence recruitment standards, which must focus on candidates whose primary credentials lie in professional capabilities to undertake scientific research, skilled labor activities, or management functions (rather than spacecraft flight operations). This diversification of personnel also will be intensified by the inclusion of non-U.S. personnel on U.S. space missions, starting with the Spacelab program.

The number of people on board a spacecraft also will increase with the Shuttle and SOC. The Space Shuttle can transport up to seven people into orbit, a more than two-fold increase over the Apollo missions. Moreover, Shuttle flights will include women for the first time in the U.S. space program. The addition of an orbiting Space Operations Center probably would further increase the number of people in space at any given time and would likely lengthen the duration of an orbital assignment beyond the currently envisioned maximum of thirty days on the Space Shuttle.

New factors will influence personnel selection and training, space facilities, designs, and the personnel procedures in orbit. Such factors will arise from a combination of: reduced social reinforcement for space service; the inclusion of women and professionals from a variety of disciplines and nations; and the probable lengthening of space mission durations. These changes in space mission profiles challenge behavioral and social scientists to be much more rigorous and develop improved powers of prediction. The consequences of poor social planning for space missions can be as severe as those of poor engineering. On the other hand, careful social planning can help prevent disasters resulting from human error and can augment the quantity and quality of a mission's results.

Behavioral, social, environmental, and industrial psychology can make valuable contributions to space missions. The challenge lies in applying the accumulated knowledge of these disciplines in new and more intense ways. The fundamental space program objectives include: (1) ensuring the physical safety of a space facility from human error or aberrant behavior, and (2) maximizing individual and group productivity. Psychology already has made a remarkable start in the direction of assuring more effective human performance in a variety of applied settings by precisely manipulating schedules of reinforcement and punishment (4).

II. History of Orbital Human Factors

The United States and the Soviet Union have accumulated more than twenty years of experience with humans in space. By the end of 1982, over one hundred people had flown in space on missions ranging from fifteen minutes to 211 days. Given the untried nature of the activity, the accident rate has been remarkably low, with only three fatalities occurring in space itself during twenty years (5).

U.S. manned space activities began with the suborbital flight of Alan Shepard in May 1961. Over the next two years, the Mercury program launched six men in tiny capsules into orbital or suborbital flights for periods from fifteen minutes to thirty-four hours. The origins, selection, and training of the Mercury astronauts, as well as the procedures used in orbit, are amply documented (6).

The Mercury program was followed by the Gemini program (March 1965 to November 1966), which utilized very small two-man capsules. The ten Gemini missions ranged from four hours to fourteen days. The drama of the manned space program quickened in October 1968 with the first flight of Apollo, a program that had eleven missions ending in December 1972. The three-man capsules and associated lunar landing vehicles served as homes for a total of thirty-three astronauts who orbited the Earth or went to the Moon. The longest Apollo mission was twelve and one-half days. The program incorporated scientists into the astronaut corps for the first time; the selection, training, and on-board life of the Apollo astronauts have been covered in various accounts (7).

In summary, the first ten years of the U.S. space program were marked by missions that launched into space no more than three individuals in any one vehicle. Astronauts were exclusively male and overwhelmingly drawn from the ranks of test pilots or scientists with pilot experience. The Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo vehicles provided extremely limited living space ( 5.9 cubic meters, or 210 cubic feet, for Apollo), and the longest mission was only twelve and one-half days. However, the Skylab program (May 1973 to February 1974) offered larger living spaces and longer time in orbit, an environment more suitable for OHF analysis. In fact, Skylab was a Saturn upper stage rocket ( 14.6 meters by 6.7 meters, or 48 feet by 22 feet) that had been converted into a space workshop equipped for scientific research and manned by three-astronaut teams. The living area in the Apollo command module was multiplied by more than forty-five times in Skylab. Three teams served on board Skylab in missions that lasted from twenty-eight to eighty-four days (8).

Through the Salyut 6 & 7 programs (1977-82), the Soviet Union added valuable information to an understanding of orbital human factors in long-duration missions (up to 211 days for two-man crews) (9).

III. Factors Affecting the Future of Orbital Human Factors

To structure an understanding of the future of orbital human factors, it is useful to establish two major categories: the near-term future (1980s and 1990s) and the long-term future (the 21st century). Each category includes unique space technological parameters, Earth-based social dynamics, and sponsoring institutions which combine in a kind of dialectic process to produce different varieties of OHF. Because key characteristics of future space operations will differ from early spaceflight, OHF experiences from the first twenty years of space activity will be of decreasing value.

A. The Near-Term Future (1980‹1990s)

The near-term future can be discussed in terms of two technological subdivisions: (1) the Shuttle/Spacelab, the only manned U.S. space facility during the 1980s; and (2) the Space Operations Center (SOC), a permanently staffed orbiting space station. The SOC may be constructed during the 1990s.

The Shuttle/Spacelab missions will last no longer than thirty days, but as noted above will include women and non-U.S. nationals in American astronaut space programs for the first time. The program also will introduce the use of astronauts not trained to fly the space vehicle, i.e., the "payload specialists," who will be aboard Spacelab solely to conduct experiments and operate research equipment .

After the initial Shuttle/Spacelab missions, launches to space facilities gradually will become more frequent, engendering a substantial drop in media attention. The populace still will see space operations as exotic work, but not on par with the heroic status assigned to space exploration during the first twenty years of manned space activity. Space activities will become somewhat kindred to service in Antarctica, reducing the social reinforcement that often elicits extraordinary performance from individuals. However, the relatively short duration of the Shuttle/Spacelab missions (the majority well below thirty days) minimizes problems that tend to emerge on long-term missions, e.g., using and scheduling leisure time or coping with the build-up of latent personality conflicts among crew members.

As a discipline, psychology has analyzed extensively the role of interpersonal dynamics in any group setting. The group (or community) is subject to a wide variety of process variables at any given time. The characteristics of these variables are well documented in social psychology research; the literature also addresses the proper manipulation and control of group variables for the enhancement of the communities' good (10).

The emergence in the 1990s of one or more permanently staffed orbiting facilities will reintroduce the potential for problems caused by extended human residence in space. Moreover, crew size probably will increase beyond the maximum of seven persons on any one Spacelab mission, augmenting the relevance of the questions that naturally arise when a group expands and becomes more heterogeneous. At this stage, the social questions pertinent to space operations mirror those of scientific and military bases and stations in hostile Earth regions, such as the Arctic and Antarctic.

In both the Shuttle/Spacelab and Space Operations Center programs, the primary sponsoring institution will be a U.S. government entity, NASA. Under U.S. government control, astronaut space missions are responsible to the full spectrum of public policy, and the handling of space-related social issues will be scrutinized closely by centers of policy formulation, such as Congress. Such reviews will tend to limit available options for dealing with OHF issues. For instance, policymakers will devote careful attention to public opinion in dealing with questions such as the health risks to humans exposed to cosmic rays.

B. The Long-Term Future (The 21st Century)

Human space activity in the 21st century will evolve into a diversified and increasingly complex experience. The expected technological improvements will provide capabilities for more robust manned space activity. Space facilities may well become more spacious, increasingly acquiring attributes of Earth-based facilities, including commodious living spaces and areas for leisure activities. Eventually, some of the Earth's flora and even fauna may be duplicated in space habitats, and in the very long term, facilities may begin to approximate orbiting towns more than isolated stations. In addition, technological advances may provide the means to establish living facilities on the Moon and possibly Mars. All these technological improvements would augur well for the opportunity for individuals to choose long assignments at space facilities.

Moreover, the U.S. government probably will be joined by non-governmental institutions in developing space operations and facilities. Among others, private companies, universities, and health and leisure institutions may sponsor or co-sponsor the establishment and maintenance of space facilities. However, active participation by non-governmental institutions will be determined by the level and direction of economic benefits that accrue from space activities, such as the degree to which commercialization of space is advanced by using space-based energy and raw material resources and the value added during product processing in space.

The twenty-first century may see the evolution of company towns in space, comparable to the pattern in Dhahran, where the Aramco Corporation maintains 4,000 American employees at considerable cost in suburban-like towns in the midst of the Saudi Arabian desert. Other examples of industrial towns in an exotic environment include the Norwegian and Soviet coal mining settlements on Spitzbergen Island in the Arctic Ocean; these communities are operated at substantial cost, but the profits from their activities more than compensate for the level of effort necessary to sustain them.

In the very long term, individuals or communities may simply prefer space facilities to Earth as a permanent residence. At this point, the social configuration of human space activities may begin to simulate the experiences of earlier colonial times, when groups moved into physically hostile areas for other than purely economic reasons. An analogy can be found in the Mormon settlement of Utah in the late 1840s, an undertaking to secure freedom to practice religious beliefs unacceptable to the mainstream of society.

IV. Orbital Human Factors

A. The Near-Term Future (1980s and 1990s)

From a pragmatic point of view, the fundamental near-term objectives of OHF include insuring the physical safety of the space facility from human error or aberrant behavior and maximizing individual and group productivity. These objectives depend on three principal issues: the selection of space personnel; training; and in-orbit procedures.

(1) Shuttle/Spacelab crew selection. The crews for the Shuttle/Spacelab missions will include spacecraft operators and on-board researchers to monitor scientific equipment and experiments. The selection process for each group is different.

Personnel charged with operating the Shuttle include the commander, the pilot, and the mission specialist. The criteria for their selection are very similar to those applied to earlier astronauts‹e.g., flight experience in high performance aircraft, ability to function effectively under stress, and general physical fitness; NASA itself selects spacecraft operators. Personnel responsible for on-board scientific equipment are known as payload specialists and may number up to four persons on any given Shuttle flight. Payload specialists are drawn from the scientific and technical community and chosen by a committee of scientists and researchers who represent the principal investigators on a particular mission. Each Spacelab mission will employ different technical and professional criteria to select payload specialists.

Both the pilots and payload specialists must pass basic medical and psychiatric evaluations; the psychiatric assessments seek to: (a) detect any overt or covert personality disorders; (b) assess the capacity to function as a productive member in assigned roles; and (c) identify individuals whose motivations and personalities make effective performance likely under the stresses of spaceflight.

The dynamics of human emotion and the interactive effects on individual motivation and productivity constituted a major area of interest for psychology scholars over the past two decades (11) and shou~d be interrelated with spaceflight concerns.

(2) Shuttle/Spacelab crew training. Commander, pilot, and mission specialist training focuses on flying and operating the Shuttle under a wide variety of conditions. In many respects, such training is similar to that given to earlier astronauts and includes extensive use of simulators to develop appropriate responses to launch, flight, and landing contingencies. The training also develops precise and rapid intra-crew communications and control procedures and focuses attention on critical tasks during periods of psycho-physiological stress. One training objective is to build person-to-person and person-to-machine relationships that operate with maximum efficiency.

The payload specialists training takes place in two stages. The first stage trains candidates to operate the scientific equipment and experiments scheduled for a particular mission and usually is conducted at an industrial facility, government agency, or university. The second training phase familiarizes candidate payload specialists with basic flight skills, such as operating food and hygiene systems and developing competence in both ordinary and emergency procedures.

(3) Shuttle/Spacelab procedures in orbit. Because of the relatively short duration of the missions, a specifically scheduled set of crew procedures will be activated once the Shuttle/Spacelab is in orbit. Such procedures encompass three general concerns; the first is the work to be accomplished on the mission, which mainly includes the starting and maintenance of experiments and equipment (which in some cases requires around-the-clock attention). Correct pacing of mission work is an important consideration, because too slow a pace can reduce potential mission effectiveness, but too high a pace can produce insufficient attention to critical details and adversely affect crew morale. Behavioral factors that influence pacing of work and the modification of these factors have long concerned psychology scholars. Many authors have discussed the effects of learning and environmental manipulation of pacing (12).

The second procedural concern focuses on crew health maintenance and biomedical monitoring, which involves a series of biomedical samplings and a vigorous exercise program each day to counteract the effects of zero gravity on the body, e.g., muscle atrophy and bone mineral loss. Personal sanitation is especially important, because certain microbes can increase dramatically in the confined, weightless environment of a space facility. Many tasks, such as the handling of laundry, are designed to insure maximum cleanliness.

The third procedural concern addresses simple living: eating, sleeping, and recreation. Shuttle meals are designed to be nutritious, tasty, and diverse because bland or monotonous diets can influence performance and morale. Careful attention is given to assuring regular, restful sleep for the crew. Optimal opportunities for recreation are provided within the limited resources of the Shuttle/Spacelab (e.g., cards, games, books, writing materials, and tape recorders to listen to music and note personal impressions). As a discipline, psychology studies in some detail the modification and analysis of human performance by manipulation of the individual's environment; these variables should be explored more closely in relation to spaceflight.

(4) Permanently staffed facilities: crew selection. The prospect of large crews, greater crew heterogeneity, and significantly longer assignments will exert new pressures on the astronaut selection process. The space program probably will need to select people with experience in construction, management, clerical work, and health services. In addition to the psychological criteria of the Shuttle/Spacelab program, the process will place increasing emphasis on candidates' adaptive competence, i.e., their capacity to adjust to new physical environments for extended periods of time while simultaneously maintaining effective performance and continuing psychological growth. Fortunately, humans are extremely adaptive organisms blessed with a relatively flexible psychological makeup. Nonetheless, during long space missions, astronauts must be kept psychologically as well as physically sound, and many psychology professionals should be interested in the clinical as well as the research implications of such behavior (13). The assignments probably will require some ability to carry out repetitive and monotonous tasks, but also maintain the capacity to respond to sudden emergencies. Such missions also require the ability to adjust to the social environment of the space facility and to work effectively and harmoniously with co-workers. Mechanisms to evaluate adaptive competence must study the developmental history of candidates and assess future self-attitudes by using stress testing and peer evaluation (14).

(5) Permanently staffed facilities: crew training. Training will address three basic concerns: adapting existing professional skills to space tasks, including familiarization with space-based equipment; learning the living procedures at the facility; and developing social adaptation skills. Social adaptation training addresses: (a) social sensitivity, i.e., understanding others, especially in circumstances that intermix education levels, social classes, cultures, and world views; (b) communication skills to articulate anxieties and frustrations and thus avoid escalating tensions and deviant behavior manifestations; and (c) group performance, including skills in leading, following, and facilitating group compromise. Such skill development represents an intrinsic part of social psychology and should be addressed by professional researchers (15).

(6) Permanently staffed facilities: procedures in orbit. The operational procedures for a permanently staffed space facility of any size will have to account for a wide variety of human behaviors and needs. Moreover, operational procedures will become more complex as crews increase in size and heterogeneity and as individuals or groups of individuals are cycled in and out of the space facility. In contrast, entire Shuttle/Spacelab crews train and conduct space missions as a single unit. Only the Soviet space program has any experience in cycling crews (albeit very limited experience).

Operational procedures will have to address the often complex questions of authority, individual and group privacy, leisure activities, individual and group communications (both on board and to Earth), and individual or group psychological disorders. The use of hypnosis as a possible tool to reduce personal problems during spaceflight has been studied in recent years and may be considered for use in permanently staffed facilities (16). The legal aspects of all planned procedures also will have to be carefully studied in advance of their establishment.

B. The Long-Term Future (The 21st Century)

During the 21st century, the psychological selection, training, and on-board procedures will gradually change in fundamental ways. The combination of improved space technologies and the diversification of sponsoring institutions will stimulate procedures much more similar to those used in mainstream society. Airflight provides a rough analogy; flying 950 kilometers per hour at 12,000 meters (600 miles per hour at 40,000 feet) once required very special selection, training, and operational procedures. Such flights are now available to nearly all members of society with no preparation beyond a two-minute introduction to the emergency life-support systems aboard an airliner.

Selection may devolve to simply preventing armed individuals from going into space. Training may be reduced to a simple orientation to basic safety procedures at the space facility. Operational procedures themselves probably will be aimed exclusively at safety and not necessarily at individual and group productivity.

In the very long run, as space settlements evolve into full-fledged communities in which individuals and families can live permanently, issues relevant to residence in space will merge into the ordinary questions of living on Earth .

Appendix Two materials provide insights from the experiences of two instructors.


1. The author is indebted to Dr. B. J. Bluth of California State University at Northridge for this observation and to Dr. Robert Ruskin of Georgetown University for some of the bibliographic references cited below .

2. B.F. Skinner. "Science and Human Behavior." NY: The Free Press, 1953. Also: Ralph K. Schwitzgebel and David A. Kolb. Changing Human Behavior. NY: McGraw-Hill, 1974.

3. David L. Watson and Roland G. Tharp. "Self-Directed Behavior: Self-Modification for Personal Adjustment." Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole Publishing Co., 1972.

4. Alan E. Kadzin. Behavior Modification in Applied Settings" Homewood, IL: Dorsey Press, 1975. Also: Edward W. Craighead, Alan E. Kadzin, and Michael J. Mahoney. "Behavior Modification." Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1981.

5. Three Soviet cosmonauts died during their return from orbit in 1971.

6. The Mercury astronauts. "We Seven." NY: Simon and Schuster, 1962. See also the lively account in: Tom Wolfe. "The Right Stuff." NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1979.

7. Michael Collins. "Carrying the Fire." New York: Ballantine, 1974; Edwin Aldrin. "Return to Earth." New York: Random House, 1974; Walter Cunningham. "The All-American Boys." New York: Macmillan, 1977. All are thoughtful expositions from the perspective of astronaut insiders. These are complemented by the engaging style of: Norman Mailer. "Of a Fire on the Moon." Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Company, 1970. For a gripping account of the handling of a near-fatal disaster in the Apollo program see: Henry Cooper. "Thirteen: The Flight That Failed." New York: Dial, 1973. The selection and training of the scientist astronauts are reviewed from the point of view of a disenchanted insider in: Brian O'Leary. "The Making of an Ex-Astronout." Boston, MA: Houghton and Mifflin, 1970. The best scientific studies of human needs and behaviors in space during the first generation of manned space missions are detailed in: Space Science Board. "Human Factors in Long-Duration Space Flight." Washington, D.C.: The National Academy of Science, 1972. Also: R.S. Johnston, L.F. Dietlein, and C.A. Berry (eds). "Biomedical Results of Apollo." Washington, D.C.: National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA-SP-368, 1975. The psycho-physiological aspects of the 1960s space missions are presented in easily readable lay language in: Mitchell R. Sharpe. "Living in Space‹The Astronaut and His Environment." New York: Doubleday and Company, 1969.

8. A review of Skylab is found in: R.S. Johnston and L.F. Dietlein (eds). "Biomedical Results From Skylab." Washington, D.C.: National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA-SP-377, 1977. The complex social dynamics operating among the astronauts and between the crews and ground control are vividly described in: Henry Cooper. "A House in Space." New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1976.

9. The psycho-physiological aspects of the Salyut 6 program are discussed in layman's language in: Lyudmila Yenyutina. "Zero Gravity: Its Dangers and Possibilities." Soviet Life. April 1980. See also: James Oberg. "Red Star in Orbit." New York: Random House, 1981, chapter 10.

10. Richard I. Evans and Richard M. Rogelle. "Social Psychology in Life." Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon, Inc., 1973. Also: Warren H. Dunham. "Community as Process: Maintaining the Delicate Balance." American Journal of Community Psychology. Volume 5(3), September 1977, pp. 257-68.

11. Herbert L. Petrie. "Motivation: Theory and Research." Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Co., 1980. Also: Hall and Lindzey. "Theories of Personality." NY: Wiley, 1980.

12. Roland G. Tharp and Ralph J. Wetzel. "Behavior Modification in the Natural Environment." NY: Academic Press, 1969.

13. Marvin R. Goldfried and Michael Merbaum (eds). "Behavior Change Through Self-Control." NY: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc., 1973.

14. T. Stephen Cheston and David L. Winter (eds). "Human Factors of Outer Space Production." Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1980.

15. Dennis Krebs. "Readings in Social Psychology." NY: Harper and Row Publishing Co., to be published in 1982.

16. S.J. Van Pelt. "Hypnosis and Space Travel." Journal of the American Institute of Hypnosis. Vol. 16(6), November 1975, pp. 17-21.

Appendix Two


Utilization of Orbital Human Factors in College Teaching

T. Stephen Cheston
Georgetown University

Orbital human factors can serve as a useful heuristic device in the teaching of psychology, especially behavioral, social, environmental, and industrial psychology. The inherently exotic quality of topics related to outer space naturally attracts the interests of students. Students often will dedicate themselves to studying and researching space-related subjects with greater-than-usual intensity. While Shuttle/Spacelab topics are of great interest, students gravitate more toward issues relevant to the permanent occupancy of space (which include Shuttle/Spacelab program topics, but also encompass a wider range of social questions).

Orbital human factors study is most productive in courses designed for students who have moved beyond introductory psychology courses. Orbital human factors represents a means of applying basic knowledge in the psychological sciences and, furthermore, provides opportunities for developing research projects based on well-defined behavioral data.

The topics listed below concentrate on the permanent occupancy of space and serve as potential case studies for various aspects of the psychological sciences. During the 1980s, the Shuttle/Spacelab program will be a continual source of new empirical data that can be utilized by faculty to teach the psychological aspects of the permanent occupancy of space.

The orbital human factors issues pertinent to the next century are more general and are listed separately.

Topics for the Permanent Occupancy of Space (1980s and 1990s)
(A) Selection
(1) Testing devices to determine
(a) technical skills
(b) psychological adaptation to environment, social group, and stress
(2) Methods to acquire perceptive psychological case histories of applicants
(3) Methods to determine optimum time in orbit
(4) Factors to consider: specific job function, personality type, level of education, age, sex of individual and the male-female distribution in the space facility, prior psychological history, family relationships, and motivation for being in space
(5) Utilization of computers in the selection process
(B) Training
(1) Utilization of simulators in the training process for
(a) acquisition and adaptation of necessary work skills for service in orbit
(b) adaptation to the space environment, social group, and stress
(2) Utilization of computers in skill acquisition and adaptation to space servlce
(3) Unit training vs. individual training‹during training, development of task teams that require the whole group to be replaced if one member of the team cannot perform‹ analogy can be found in certain heavy weapons military crews
(4) Training for crew integration with ground control
(C) Procedures for personnel in orbit General problem‹space facilities will be institutions where work, leisure, and all extra work activity will occur in one location for sustained periods of time. The procedures at such facilities should be designed to meet the conscious and subconscious needs of the resident personnel to help ensure the physical safety of the facility and maximum personnel productivity. Procedures should address questions such as governance, mental health, social and cultural environment, financial issues, communications, civil and criminal codes.

Specific topics:
(1) Systems to divide authority between on-board personnel and ground control that are used in the U.S. space program vs. the Soviet space program
(2) Appointed leadership vs. real leadership and methods to converge the two at a space facility
(3) Methods to inform the leadership of crew sentiment‹e.g., town meetings to air problems
(4) Minimization of mindless automated behavior
(5) Utilization of simulators in orbit for skill maintenance and upgrading
(6) Procedures to handle disruptive activities both on the individual level (e.g., criminal behavior) and on the group level (strikes)
(7) Methods for early detection of performance degradation
(8) Establishment of viable norms for balancing individual autonomy against need for central control‹includes the right to individual privacy vs. right of administration to monitor the physical and mental health of personnel and the right of social science researchers to collect data on personnel
(9) Establishment of balance between work and leisure‹ avoiding excessive work on the one hand and excessive inactivity on the other
(10) Provisions for privacy and avoidance of overexposure to companions
(11) Establishment of levels of permissible physical risk for various categories of personnel
(12) Development of criteria for the utilization of pharmaceuticals to reinforce behavior or handle crisis management‹includes the utilization of alcohol and caffeine
(13) Establishment of legal protocols adapted to the psychological situation at space facilities‹involves both the criminal and civil codes and should take into account multinational work forces
(14) Procedures to handle missions with less than optimum health conditions
(15) Means for individual communication with family and friends on Earth‹e.g., channels exempt from administrative monitoring
(16) Policies to deal with religious and cultural ceremonies and rituals‹e.g., Christmas
(17) Procedures to address philosophic issues‹experience indicates that residency in orbit tends to make individuals more reflective about philosophic questions such as the meaning of existence and humanity's relationship with the cosmos
(18) Methods to compensate personnel who maximize productivity‹e.g., salary, profit-sharing, stock options

Topics for the Twenty-First Century
(1) Comparison between contemporary communities established for economic purposes in hostile physical environments (e.g., Spitzbergen Island) and possible company towns in space
(2) Strikes at space industrial operations and their psychological and economic implications
(3) Changes in consciousness caused by the different visual experiences of long-time residence in space (e.g., the constant sight of the entire Earth against a background of black emptiness)
(4) Optimum designs for space facilities to reduce claustrophobic feelings and increase feelings of well-being
(5) Problems occasioned by space workers developing skills that are usable only in space and not transferable to Earth-based industries (analogous to seamen and miners)
(6) Optimum population sizes and densities of space communities to meet medical, educational, and cultural needs and to maintain individual psychological well-being
(7) Long-term socio-psychological changes caused by sustained separation from Earth society
(8) The psychological impact of long-term separation from the 24-hour day/night cycle; behavior modification induced by sustained disruption of the circadian rhythm in human biology; impacts on sleep, body temperature, blood pressure

Description and Evaluation of an Undergraduate Course in Space Development

Howard Iver Thorsheim
Psychology Department
St. Olaf College

I. Course Description

An application of a "systems approach" (1) was employed to design and teach a space development course. The course built on the interacting and interdependent innovation resources found in industry, government, and academia (2). Space Development (taught for the first time in 1977) was stimulated by O'Neill's thinking, manifested in his undergraduate physics course at Princeton University (3).

Course Design

The systems approach applied in this course has been termed a "metaperspective for curriculum development" (4). A "metaperspective," or "perspective on perspectives," incorporates: (1) a recognition of the essential multidimensionality of one's topic, (2) acknowledgment of the fact that those dimensions interact dynamically, and (3) the development of models that attempt to understand the dynamic interactions and utilize them in creative ways.

Course Goals and Objectives

Within the relevant liberal arts context, the following course objectives were adopted:
(1) To develop a theoretical framework for systematic consideration of the issues.
(2) To establish a historical context for present and future space development.
(3) To develop a base in state-of-the-art social science techniques that facilitates the analysis of space issues.
(4) To assess the interface of value issues and technological developments.
(5) To develop student skills in interdisciplinary thinking.
(6) To introduce students to professionals in industry, government, and academia working on space development issues.
(7) To encourage students to seek critical evaluation of their research through publication.

Extensive bibliographies supported each element in the following course outline.

Outline of Course Content

(1) Course overview: a systems approach to space development
(2) Historical background of rocket propulsion and manned space travel
(3) General systems theory
(A) Isomorphism among systems
(B) Mutually interdependent variables
(C) Information exchange
(D) Feedback
(1) Positive feedback (difference-amplifying)
(2) Negative feedback (equilibrium-seeking)
(E) Entropy vs. evolution
(F) Equifinality and multifinality
(4) Our neighborhood‹the solar system
(A) Other planets
(B) Other places
(1) Geosynchronous orbit
(2) Radiation belts, asteroid belts
(3) Libration points
(5) Space utililization
(A) Humans in space‹the fourth environment
(1) Skylab
(2) Space Transportation System (Shuttle, Spacelab, Space
Operations Center)
(3) Humans in the loop
(a) Human factors psychology ("engineering psychology")
(i) Human performance
(ii) Human learning and memory for verbal tasks and motor tasks
(b) Simulation
(i) Microprocessors and human-machine interfacing
(ii) Cognitive psychophysiology
(4) Social-ecological systems
(a) Community and environmental psychology
(b) Development and production
(i) Designing for health
(ii) Accident prevention
(iii) Space medicine
(5) Time
(a) Leisure and recreation
(b) Circadian rhythms
(c) Time perception
(B) Space industrialization and manufacturing
(1) Resources
(a) Microgravity
(b) Vacuum
(c) Temperature range
(d) Geosynchronous orbiting
(e) Microbiotic isolation
(2) Uses
(a) Basic and applied research
(b) Development and production
(c) Examples (four from many are listed below)
(i) Electrophoretic separation
(ii) Crystal growth
(iii) Forming of molten metals
(iv) Solar power satellite technology development
(3) Applications
(a) Goods
(b) Services
(c) Energy
(6) Migration into space
(A) Factors producing, reducing, or reversing effects of isolation from homeland (analogs from past migrations on Earth, e.g., Scandinavian-American migrations, 1825- 1920)
(B) Conflict
(1) Sources
(2) Reduction
(3) Prevention
(C) Primary stressors and responses to them
(D) "Push'' vs. "pull" factors in migration
(E) Identity issues
(7) Value questions and international space law
(A) Policy and program evaluation
(1) Risk/benefit analysis
(2) Public sector and private sector interests
(3) National and international perspectives
(4) Priorities among program objectives
(5) Social change
(B) Aesthetic issues
(C) Integration of human Earth and space needs with technological goals
(D) International relations and cooperation
(8) Higher education's present and future role in space development
(A) As an Earth-based support system
(B) As a space-based facilitator of adaptation by humans in a new alternative setting
(9) Designing attractive alternative human futures through space development
(A) Space development scenarios
(B) Design of human communities in space

II. Course Impact

(A) Students
In 1981, a survey questionnaire was sent to those students who had taken the course during the previous five years. The survey indicated a rich diversity in the course's impact on students.

One student successfully submitted his research paper, "Solar Power Satellite Issues: The Need to Look Ahead," to the DOE/NASA 1980 Satellite Power System Review and Symposium (5). A thorough recounting of the impact of the course on that student and a descriptive summary of other students' experiences were included in a paper at the XXXII Congress of the International Astronautical Federation (6).

Several student reports were adapted for presentation at regional conferences, including the 1981 Region V Student Conference of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. For other students, the course strengthened long-standing space development interests which had their origins in the U.S. space program and, in some cases, early work in model rocketry. Many students developed skills that can be applied to constructing interfaces between other disciplines and space development. Still other students developed new career directions, using opportunities such as the Lunar and Planetary lnstitute Summer Internship.

(B) Instructor Developing and teaching the course stimulated my thinking, research, and teaching productivity (7). Opportunities for grant support have developed, culminating most recently in a three-year grant from the U.S. Public Health Service for research in another area of human systems.

Associate Membership in the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics has been useful in contacting networks of professionals in government, industry, and academia who also are designing approaches to space education. Moreover, those networks have expanded to include persons in numerous other space-related organizations, both domestic and international. Working with individuals and groups involved in space development and related fields and acting as consultant to other interested individuals represents one of the most direct and stimulating results of the course.


1. C. West Churchman. "The Design of Inquiring Systems." New York: Basic Books, 1971.

2 Howard I. Thorsheim. "Social Studies of Space Utilization and the Liberal Arts." Presented at the Fourth Princeton Conference on Space Manufacturing, Princeton University, May 14, 1979. Also: Howard I. Thorsheim. "Alternative Curriculum Futures and General Systems Theory." "Proceedings of the 25th Annual North American Meetings of the Society for General Systems Research." Washington, D.C., 1981, pp. 597-604. Also: Howard I. Thorsheim and Kevin K. Dybdal. "Impact of Space Development on Educational Motivation." Presented at the XXXII Congress of the International Astronautical Federation, Rome, Italy, September 1981. Also in press: L. Napolitano (ed). "Earth Applications of Space Technology." Pergamon Press, 1982.

3. G. K. O'Neill. "The High Frontier." Morrow and Company, 1977.

4. Howard I. Thorsheim, Raymond Denning, and Peder Bolstad. "Metaperspectives in Post-Secondary Education." Presented at the First Meeting, Education Section, World Future Society, University of Houston, 1978.

5. Kevin K. Dybdal. "Solar Power Satellite Issues: The Need To Look Ahead." Final Proceedings of the Solar Power Sotellite Program Review. Lincoln, Nebraska, April 22-25, 1980.

6. Howard I. Thorsheim and Kevin K. Dybdal. "Impact of Space Development on Educational Motivation." See footnote 2.

7. Howard I. Thorsheim. "Alternative Curriculum Futures and General Systems Theory." Proceedings of the 25th Annual North Ametican Meetings of the Society for General Systems Research. Washington, D.C., 1981, pp. 597-604.
Also: Howard I. Thorsheim and Bruce B. Roberts. "Social Ecology and Human Development: A Systems Approach for the Design of Human Communities in Space."Proceedings of the Fifth Princeton/American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics/Space Studies Institute Conference on Space Manufacturing." Princeton, New Jersey, May 1981.