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During Expedition One a range of psychological measures, informal observation, crew discussion and other means were used to collect information about crew psychological issues. The overall goal of the psychological studies was to gain insight into crew individual and group issues that may be relevant to a human mission to Mars or other prolonged human spaceflight. Another goal was to gather information relevant to improved functioning for future MDRS crews. Most of the comments below relate to Phases III and IV, when the majority of data collection took place, but some is relevant to the entire mission.
Along with specifically psychological measures, the crew psychologist was also involved in human factors studies. These are covered in a separate Human Factors report.
Major psychology research findings from ExOne will be reported in future publications once data can be properly analysed. The purpose of the current document is to summarise the measures used, impressions regarding outcomes of the studies and recommendations/implications for the future.
Formal Measures - Social Psychological Measures
All crew members completed a questionnaire entitled "Personal and Group Functioning Survey". This instrument was developed by social psychologists Dr Kate Reynolds & Dr Rachael Eggins at the School of Psychology, Australian National University. It is based on an extensive literature and research on issues of group identity and goal alignment conducted by the Social Psychology Research Unit at ANU. It aims to help determine the extent to which crew members on ExOne identified with ExOne overall as well as with it's subgroups such as Field Science and Mission Systems. In turn it aims to measure the degree to which crewmembers aligned their personal goals with the overall ExOne group and it's subgroups. Crewmembers in Phases III and IV completed the questionnaire three times each week. The data will be analysed back at ANU and results published.
All crewmembers also completed a brief, computerised measure of cognitive performance called CogState. This measure was developed by a team of neuropsychology researchers in Melbourne (now incorporated as CogState -- see cogstate.com) who sought to provide sensitive measures of changes in neurocognitive status. Crewmembers in Phases I and II completed CogState one or more times while those in phases III and IV completed it several times per week. Data will be analysed as a separate neuropsychological study as well being incorporated into the social psychology study.
To supplement measures of group and individual function, all crewmembers from Phases III and IV completed the AstroPCI personality battery. This battery has previously been administered at MDRS by Ephimia Morphew in collaboration with Assoc. Prof. Sheryl Bishop of University of Texas Medical Branch. Prof Bishop kindly agreed to also collaborate on ExOne personality measures. The measures are currently used to assist in the "select in" phase of astronaut selection for NASA.
Observed Issues for MDRS -Adaptive Capacity
During Phases III and IV (when I was present) I was impressed by the adaptive capacity of this large and diverse crew. In phase III there were 13 people living and working together in the confines of MDRS, part of that phase involving full simulation conditions. The crew managed to adapt quickly to these conditions, work effectively and largely with good cheer. I think this says a great deal about the quality of the individuals who participated on ExOne and also about the benefit of extensive preplanning in preparing people to work effectively in difficult conditions. The clarity of goals achieved both as a group and individually prevented what would have almost certainly been an otherwise chaotic start to ExOne.
Also impressive was the unusually rapid development of rapport and friendship between crewmembers at the beginning of each phase of ExOne. After discussion with crew, it seems this was largely due to the extensive planning by Rocky Persaud and the frequent interaction between crewmembers by internet and phone during the planning stages. It would seem there was already a strong sense of shared identity and goals before people met each other in person.
Factors in Interpersonal Conflict
Despite the best intentions some conflict occurred on occasions although it was generally mild in nature and quickly resolved. Most interpersonal conflict occurred late in the day when crew were tired, very busy and hungry. On occasions when conflict occurred, careful debriefing was carried out during the regular team meetings. The debriefs revealed that, on most occasions, conflict was due to failure to communicate each others' intentions or perspectives. In turn effective interpersonal interaction was undermined on occasions by problems in communication, usually due in turn to technical difficulties with communications equipment.
Where the problem was not specifically communication as such, tension seemed to be due to difficulty for crew in being able to understand the needs and priorities of other crew. This was particularly apparent during transition times eg. rover arriving back at the hab. On some occasions, including one following an extended rover mission, there appeared to be a sense of "us" and "them", a sense for those in the hab of their space being intruded upon and for those in the rover of their needs not being appreciated. Again, detailed debriefing generally resolved the problems but these are issues for further research.
ExOne generally followed the traditional command structure employed by MDRS crew, but at the beginning of phase IV a meeting was held to allow consensus on the leadership style to adopt for this phase. A separate report by myself & Jon Clarke details the background and outcome. Essentially a consensus style was adopted with a rotating coordinator whose job it was to remind crew of the timetable, chair meetings, etc.
As the week developed, informal interviews with crew suggested a mixed response. Some strongly preferred this consensus style, felt much more able to "have their say", felt more a part of the mission, etc. Some, however, felt that decision making was overly dominated by strong personalities who were highly outspoken and that there was considerable pressure upon them to fall into line with the wishes of those people. More information regarding the relative effectiveness of different leadership styles should emerge once the formal psychological data is analysed.
More research is needed to find the best model for MDRS crew and Expedition Two as well as for future human Mars missions. It seems reasonable to assume that the crew for a Mars mission would have a considerable time working and living together prior to the mission and that there will be time to both adopt and refine the best leadership style. Further analogue research, however, particularly involving more lengthy missions in a specifically Mars analogue setting should go a good way towards developing the most helpful leadership style.
Individual Crew Performance
Throughout ExOne, but particularly in Phases III and IV, the psychological measures described above were employed to both monitor and study crew performance and it's impact on mission goals. The data is yet to be analysed. Impressions, however, from my own observation and discussions with crew, highlighted the impact of sleep and leisure (or lack of these) and stress.
In earlier weeks of ExOne there was a great deal to do in confined conditions. As a result crew tended to stay up late to finish tasks with some impact evident on their individual performance as well as group interaction. In Phase IV a consensus decision was made to "lock in" set sleep hours from 11pm to 7am, with lights to be dimmed from 10pm. Crew reported not only feeling better, less stressed, but also being more alert and effective in their tasks, consistent with findings on the ISS and other space programmes. Established programs, working with results of earlier research, seem quite able to not only allow but also require good sleep opportunity, reasonable leisure time, etc.
It may therefore be a function of the relative youth of the MDRS and the felt need to "prove oneself" which has allowed a culture of overly long work hours to permeate the practices of past crew. The current "experiment" suggests that this culture can be changed but will require crew to be psychologically stronger as a group in order to resist the overwork/burnout culture so prevalent in Western society.