Behavioral Health

  • Albert A. Harrison
  • Edna R. Fiedler
Part of the Space Technology Library book series (SPTL, volume 29)


Experience gained from test pilots, high-altitude balloonists, and animals sent on rocket flights was the starting point for understanding astronaut adaptation and performance in space. Psychology played a significant role in Project Mercury, but before that effort was complete, official interest in such topics as astronaut selection, psychosocial adjustment, group dynamics, and psychological support all but disappeared. Interest was rekindled when astronauts joined cosmonauts on Mir and then became full partners on the International Space Station. We review reasons for this period of minimal involvement in the space program and suggest that the “right stuff” image worked against psychology and psychiatry until the mid-1990s, when space station expeditions brought the challenges of long-duration missions into focus. Evidence of renewed interest included the advent of the National Space Biomedical Research Institute, the development of NASA’s Bioastronautics Critical Path Roadmap, and the new Human Research Program. In 2001, Safe Passage: Astronaut Care for Exploration Missions drew attention to behavioral health, a perspective on psychosocial adjustment that depends not only an absence of neuropsychiatric dysfunction but on the presence of positive interactions with the physical and social environments. We trace the history and current status of astronaut selection and psychological support, two essential ingredients for maintaining behavioral health, from Mercury to the ISS. Behavioral health is important because it reduces risk, helps optimize performance, and contributes to the welfare of astronauts, their coworkers, and their families. We conclude with a brief outline for a comprehensive and continuing program in spaceflight behavioral health.


Behavioral Health International Space Station Space Mission Psychological Support Space Program 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Andersen, D.T., McKay, C.P., Wharton Jr., R.A., Rummel, J.D.: An Antarctic research as a model for planetary exploration. J. Br. Interplanet. Soc 43, 499–504 (1990)Google Scholar
  2. Anonymous: Journal interview 64: conversation with Joseph V. Brady. Addiction 100, 1805–1812 (2005)Google Scholar
  3. Ball, J.R., Evans, C.H. (eds.): Safe Passage: astronaut Care for Exploration Missions. National Academy Press, Washington, DC (2001)Google Scholar
  4. Bioastronautics Critical Path Roadmap. Accessed 13 Mar 2012
  5. Birkland, T.A.: Focusing events, mobilization, and agenda setting. J. Public. Policy. 18(1), 53–74 (1997)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Brady, J.V.: Behavioral health: the propaedeutic requirement. Aviat. Space Environ. Med. 76(6, sect. II), B13–B24 (2005)Google Scholar
  7. Burgess, C., Dubbs, C.: Animals in Space: from Research Rockets to the Space Shuttle. Springer Praxis, Chichester (2007)Google Scholar
  8. Burrough, B.: Dragonfly: NASA and the Crisis On Board Mir. Harper Collins, New York (1998)Google Scholar
  9. Cernan, E., Davis, D.: The Last Man on the Moon: Astronaut Eugene Cernan and America’s Race to Space. St. Martin’s Press, New York (1999)Google Scholar
  10. Connors, M.M., Harrison, A.A., Akins, F.R.: Living Aloft: Human Requirements for Extended Spaceflight. NASA SP-483, Washington, DC (1985)Google Scholar
  11. Connors, M.M., Harrison, A.A., Akins, F.R.: Psychology in the resurgent space program. Am. Psychol. 41(8), 906–913 (1986)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cooper Jr., H.S.F.: A House in Space. Bantam Books, New York (1976)Google Scholar
  13. Cunningham, W.: The All-American Boys. Macmillan, New York (1977)Google Scholar
  14. Dinges, D.F., Rider, R.L., Dorrian, J., McGlinchey, E.L., Rogers, N.L., Cizman, Z., Goldenstein, S.K., Vogler, C., Venkartamarian, S., Metaxas, D.N.: Optical computer recognition of facial expressions associated with stress induced by performance demands. Aviat. Space Environ. Med. 76(6, sect. II), B172–B182 (2005)Google Scholar
  15. Douglas, W.K.: Psychological and sociological aspects of manned spaceflight. In: Harrison, A.A., Clearwater, Y.A., McKay, C.P. (eds.) From Antarctica to Outer Space: Life in Isolation and Confinement, pp. 81–88. Springer, New York (1990)Google Scholar
  16. Fiedler, E., Carpenter, F.E.: Evolution of the behavioral health sciences branch of the space medicine and health care systems at the Johnson Space Center. Aviat. Space Environ. Med. 76(6, sect. II), B31–B35 (2005)Google Scholar
  17. Flynn, C.F.: An operational approach to long-duration mission behavioral health and performance factors. Aviat. Space Environ. Med 76(6, sect. II), B42–B52 (2005)Google Scholar
  18. Galarza, L., Holland, A.W.: Selecting astronauts for long-duration missions. SAE international document 1999-01-2097, presented at the international conference on environmental systems, Denver, July 1999aGoogle Scholar
  19. Galarza, L., Holland, A.W.: Critical astronaut proficiencies required for long duration spaceflight. SAE Document 1999-01-2096, presented at the international conference on systems, Denver, July 1999bGoogle Scholar
  20. Gunderson, E.K.E.: Human Adaptability to Antarctic Conditions. American Geophysical Union, Washington, DC (1973)Google Scholar
  21. Gunderson, E.K.E.: Preface. In: Harrison, A.A., Clearwater, Y.A., McKay, C.P. (eds.) From Antarctica to Outer Space: Life in Isolation and Confinement, p. 1. Springer, New York (1990)Google Scholar
  22. Halvorson, T.: ISS Astronaut Susan Helms: space is More than a Nice Place to Visit. Accessed 23 June 2010
  23. Harrison, A.A.: Behavioral health: integrating research and application in support of exploration missions. Aviat. Space Environ. Med. 76(6, sect. II), B3–B12 (2005)Google Scholar
  24. Harrison, A.A., Summit, J.E.: How third force psychology might view humans in space. Space. Power 10, 85–203 (1991)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Harrison, A.A., Clearwater, Y.A., McKay, C.P, The human experience in Antarctica: applications to life in space. Behav. Sci. 34(4), 253–271 (1989)Google Scholar
  26. Harrison, A.A., Clearwater, Y.A., McKay, C.P. (eds.): From Antarctica to Outer Space: Life in Isolation and Confinement. Springer, New York (1990)Google Scholar
  27. Harvey, B.: The New Russian Space Program: From Competition to Cooperation. Wiley Praxis, Chichester (1996)Google Scholar
  28. Helmreich, R.L.: Applying psychology to outer space: unfulfilled promises revisited. Am. Psychol. 445–450 (1983)Google Scholar
  29. Holland, A.W.: Psychology of Spaceflight. J. Hum. Perform. Extreme Environ. 5(1), 4 (2000)Google Scholar
  30. House Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Constitutional Rights, NASA’s Equal Opportunity Program, hearings before the Subcommittee on the Judiciary, 93rd Congress, 2nd session, 13–14 March 1974.Google Scholar
  31. Human Research and Safety. Accessed 13 Mar 2012
  32. Human Research Roadmap. Accessed 13 Mar 2012
  33. Jones, D.R., Annes, C.A.: The evolution and present status of mental health standards for selection of USAF candidates for space missions. Aviat. Space Environ. Med. 54, 730–734 (1983)Google Scholar
  34. Kanas, N.: Psychosocial factors affecting simulated and actual space missions. Aviat. Space Environ. Med. 56(8), 806–811 (1985)Google Scholar
  35. Kanas, N.: Psychosocial support for cosmonauts. Aviat. Space Environ. Med. 62(4), 353–355 (1991)Google Scholar
  36. Kanas, N., Manzey, D.: Space Psychology and Psychiatry. Kluwer, Dordrecht (2003)Google Scholar
  37. Kanas, N., Salnitsky, V.P., Ritsher, J.B., Gushin, V.I., Weiss, D.S., Saylor, S.A., Kozerenko, O.P., Marmar, C.R.: Human interactions in space: ISS vs. shuttle/MIR. Acta Astronaut 59, 413–419 (2006)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Kane, L., Short, P., Sipes, W.E., Flynn, C.F.: Development and validation of the spaceflight cognitive assessment tool for windows (WinSCAT). Aviat. Space Environ. Med. 76(6, sect. II), B183–B191 (2005)Google Scholar
  39. Kelley, A.D., Kanas, N.: Crewmember communications in space: a survey of astronauts and cosmonauts. Aviat. Space Environ. Med. 63, 721–726 (1992)Google Scholar
  40. Kelley, A.D., Kanas, N.: Leisure time activities in space: a survey of astronauts and cosmonauts. Acta. Astronaut. 32, 451–457 (1993a)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Kelley, A.D., Kanas, N.: Communication between space crews and ground personnel: a survey of astronauts and cosmonauts. Aviat. Space. Environ. Med. 64, 795–800 (1993b)Google Scholar
  42. Launius, R.D.: Heroes in a vacuum: the Apollo astronaut as cultural icon. In: American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics [AIAA] Aerospace Sciences Meeting and Exhibit, Reno, 13 Jan 2005Google Scholar
  43. Lieberman, P., Morey, A., Hochstadt, J., Larson, M., Mather, S.: Mount Everest: a space analogue for speech monitoring of cognitive deficits and stress. Aviat. Space Environ. Med. 76(6, sect. II), B198–B207 (2005)Google Scholar
  44. Linenger, J.M.: Off the Planet. McGraw-Hill, New York (2000)Google Scholar
  45. Link, M.M.: Space Medicine in Project Mercury. NASA, Washington, DC (1965)Google Scholar
  46. Lugg, D.J.: Behavioral health in Antarctica: implications for long-duration space missions. Aviat. Space Environ. Med. 76(6, sect. II), B74–B78 (2005)Google Scholar
  47. Mallis, M.M., DeRoshia, C.W.: Circadian rhythms, sleep, and performance in space. Aviat. Space Environ. Med. 76(6, sect. II), B94–B107 (2005)Google Scholar
  48. McQuaid, K.: Race, gender and space exploration: a chapter in the social history of the space age. J. Am. Stud. 41(2), 405–434 (2007)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Mercury Program Overview. Accessed 13 Mar 2012
  50. Mitchell, E., Williams, D.: The Way of the Explorer. Putnam, New York (1996)Google Scholar
  51. Myasnikov, V.I., Zamaletdinov, I.S.: Psychological states and group interaction of crew members in flight. In: Huntoon, C.L., Antipov, V., Grigoriev, A.I. (eds.) Humans in Spaceflight, vol. 3, bk. 2, pp. 419–431. AIAA, Reston (1996)Google Scholar
  52. NASA Names CASIS to Manage Space Station National Laboratory. Accessed 13 Mar 2012
  53. Oberg, J.E., Oberg, A.R.: Pioneering the Space Frontier. McGraw-Hill, New York (1986)Google Scholar
  54. Palinkas, L.A.: The psychology of isolated and confined environments: understanding human behavior in Antarctica. Am. Psychol. 58(3), 353–363 (2003)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Palinkas, L.A., Group adaptation and individual adjustment in antarctica: a summary of recent research, In: Harrison, A.A., et al. (ed.) From Antarctica to Outer Space, pp. 239–252 Springer, New York (1990)Google Scholar
  56. Perrow, C.E.: The organizational context of human factors engineering. Adm. Sci. Q. 28(4), 521–541 (1983)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Petrov, B.N., Lomov, B.F., Samsonov, N.D. (eds.): Psychological Problems of Spaceflight. Nauka Press, Moscow (1979)Google Scholar
  58. Rasmussen, J.E. (ed.): Man in Isolation and Confinement. Aldine, Chicago (1973)Google Scholar
  59. Rholes Jr., F.H., Grunzke, M.E., Reynolds, H.H.: Chimpanzee performance during the ballistic and orbital project mercury flights. J. Comp. Physiol. Psychol. 86(1), 2–10 (1963)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Ryan, C.: The Pre-Astronauts: Manned Ballooning on the Threshold of Space. Naval Institute Press, Annapolis (1995)Google Scholar
  61. Santy, P.A.: Choosing the Right Stuff: The Psychological Selection of Astronauts and Cosmonauts. Praeger/Greenwood Publishing Group, Westport (1994)Google Scholar
  62. Schmidt, H.: The millennium project. In: Stoker, C., Emmart, C. (eds.) Strategies for Mars: a Guide for Human Exploration. American Astronautical Society/Univelt, San Diego (1996)Google Scholar
  63. Shepanek, M.: Human behavioral research in space: quandaries for research subjects and researchers. Aviat. Space Environ. Med. 76(6, sect. II), B25–B30 (2005)Google Scholar
  64. Shephard, J.M., Kosslyn, S.M.: The MiniCog rapid assessment battery: a ‘blood pressure cuff’ for the mind. Aviat. Space Environ. Med. 76(6, sect. II), B192–B197 (2005)Google Scholar
  65. Sipes, W.E., Vander Ark, S.T.: Operational behavioral health and performance resources for international space station crews and families. Aviat. Space Environ. Med. 76(6, sect. II), B36–B41 (2005)Google Scholar
  66. Sipes, W.E., Fiedler, E.: Current psychological support for US astronauts on the international space station. Paper presented at tools for psychological support during exploration missions to mars and moon, European Space Research and Technology Centre [ESTEC], Noordwijk, 26 Mar 2007Google Scholar
  67. Society of Industrial and Organizational Psychology: Principles for the Validation and Use of Personnel Selection Procedures. SIOP, Washington, DC (2003)Google Scholar
  68. Stuster, J.W.: Lessons from previous expeditions for the human exploration of mars. J. Br. Interplanet. Soc. 57, 3–4 (2004). 126–134Google Scholar
  69. Suedfeld, P.: Invulnerability, coping, salutogenesis, integration: the four phases of space psychology. Aviat. Space Environ. Med. 76(6, sect. II), B61–B66 (2005)Google Scholar
  70. Voas, R., Zedekar, R.: Astronaut selection and training, chap. 10. In: Mercury Project Summary Including the Results of the Fourth Manned Orbital Flight, May 15 and 16, 1963. Office of Scientific and Technical Information, NASA, Washington, DC (1963)Google Scholar
  71. Weick, K.E.: Organizational Design: organizations as Self-Designing Systems. Organ. Dyn. 6, 30–46 (1977)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Weitekamp, M.A.: Right Stuff, Wrong Sex: America’s First Women in Space Program. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore (2004)Google Scholar
  73. White, F.: The Overview Effect. Houghton Mifflin, Boston (1987)Google Scholar
  74. Wolfe, T.: The Right Stuff. Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, New York (1979)Google Scholar
  75. Wood, J., Schmidt, L., Lugg, D., Ayton, J., Phillips, T., Shepanek, M.: Life, survival and behavioral health in small closed communities: 10 years of studying small Antarctic groups. Aviat. Space Environ. Med. 76(6, sect. II), B89–B94 (2005)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of CaliforniaDavisUSA
  2. 2.Aerospace Psychology ConsultantsTucsonUSA

Personalised recommendations