Group Dynamics in Extreme Earth Environments: Analogs for Space Missions (Past and Present Expeditions Analysis)
Date of Award
Master of Science (MS)
Introduction: Crew performance in space has become an increasing focus of many space faring nations due to the recent shift in focus of colonizing the Moon and then preparing to travel to Mars and beyond. This recent shift in focus to more long- duration missions has moved researchers in the direction of analyzing crew performance aspects associated win, crew dynamic development on such long missions. More recently researchers have been analyzing past expeditions carried out on Earth, as these expeditions kept records of crew performance, which have been compared and analyzed to those reported on space missions. Purpose: This study investigates a comparison of the recorded errors across time from a well-known past expedition (the Lewis and Clark Expedition) to those recorded by space mission simulation studies, as they provide insight into critical human elements that may be associated with exploration into isolated and confined (or semi-confined) extreme (ICE) environments here on Earth and their extrapolation for future space crews. The study further investigates various aspects of crew psychosocial group functioning through an analysis of group environment, stress, and coping data. Such investigation includes a detailed analysis of pre-mission communication and awareness strategies for positive group functioning and development (Study 1); management of competition and besting among crew members (Study 2); overall crew performance (Study 3); and a comparison of mission mistakes made to habitat problems that arose intra-mission (Study 4). Methods: A six person heterogeneous American crew conducted a Mars simulation mission at the Mars Society’s Mars Desert Research Station in Utah, USA in 2006. Participants were administered pre-mission assessments of personality, stress and coping, and personal motivation and orientation. Personal mission mistakes and Habitat problems were reported daily by each crewmember to the crew psychologist. Mid- and end-mission assessments were administered to measure cognitive functioning; group fiinctioning/identity; perceived stress and coping; and personal motivation and orientation. Results and Conclusions: Data collected and obtained by both assessment and journaling methods were both consistent and indicative of positive personalities desirable of expedition crews. Journals kept by the crew psychologist indicated that crewmembers all felt that the pre-mission awareness of group dynamic development tendencies of past expedition crews was integral in maintaining crew cohesiveness throughout the mission. Crewmembers felt that raising the level of awareness, both pre- and intra-mission, served as a positive factor in the overall positive group dynamic development of the crew. Crewmembers all displayed low levels of competition while still reporting high motivation and satisfaction for group dynamic development and the mission objectives that were completed. The overall analysis indicated effective performance and positive coping with regards to the heavy workload and environmental stressors the crew experienced. A relationship also existed between the psychology assessment data obtained, overall crew performance, and habitat problems that arose.
Allner, Matthew M., "Group Dynamics in Extreme Earth Environments: Analogs for Space Missions (Past and Present Expeditions Analysis)" (2009). Theses and Dissertations. 907.