with the Enforced Intimacy of Space Flight
Lara Battles M.A
Marriage, Family, and Child Counselor, 405 E. Branch St., Suite H, Arroyo Grande, CA 93420. LesCygnes@aol.com
As humankind pushes the limits of its habitat to stretch beyond its native planet, humans in space flight will experience unaccustomed limits to their mobility, privacy, use of space, and person and artistic expression. Interplanetary flight poses enormous challenges physically, socially and psychologically, and while Mars Mission planners are well aware of the research on these issues, the real research will be done on the way to Mars. This paper will attempt to raise some very human issues likely to arise in prolonged space flight: intrapsychic and personality conflicts, loss of mobility, sexual needs, the role of scent, and development of a functional shipboard culture.
Interplanetary astronauts must indeed be “The right Stuff,” but what is right for a Mars mission may be quite different from what it meant in previous space ventures. In prolonged space flight, as distinctive on-board cultures will develop, the crewmembers will have a greater than ever need for strong intrapsychic resources and a high tolerance of enforced social contact. Personality characteristics resilient against social burnout and psychological stress may be as important to the successful mission candidate as is the design of the mission vehicle itself.
Real time contact with Earth-based controllers will diminish over the course of the mission; communications will need to accommodate to the increasing isolation and interdependency of the mission crew. Mission features and personal attributes impacting crew compatibility and capacity for self-reliance ranging form age and experience to a “sense of mission” may force a selection process wherein personalities ordinarily rejected as insufficiently aggressive might well become the crew of choice. Abilities to relax deeply, get lost in thought, or even dissociate may prove to be predictors of successful toleration of long term missions. Acknowledgement of sexuality and its psychological importance both personally and as a hormonal mitigator of shipboard rancors will prove necessary. Anyone may behave Puritanically for two weeks, but no one can deny his sexuality for the course of a Mars mission. Human pheromones are not the only scents to relive tension; use of aromatherapy may become as necessary to ship balance as regular exercise is to astronaut bodies. The Mir cosmonauts spoke of missing the “smell of green”, thus evocative scent packs will support psychic shipboard balance, as will CD libraries of art, music, and even the instruments of art, creating the essence of the psyche’s first aid kit. Expression of impressions and feelings through these media will provide the most economic form of psychic safety valve. A ship’s counselor...or fool...might well become the critical additional crewmember when the journey across space takes years rather than months.
Longer missions not only require different logistics in planning for the long, intermittent supply line; they must also consider the more considerable physical and emotional stresses on the crew. Inquiry into these issues, choosing crew accordingly, and providing appropriate “culture support kits” will offer potential solutions which each crew will be able to use in a manner consistent with the culture it develops in flight.