Which Personality Traits are Needed for Going Into Space?

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A multi-year trip to Mars is still an ideal project for researchers, but it takes more than technological equipment to succeed in something that no one has done before. NASA is interested in finding suitable astronauts who can provide effective assistance as part of a team.

But how is NASA going to choose the most suitable persons?

According to the “Teamwork and Collaboration in Long-Duration Space Missions: Going to Extremes” paper published in American Psychologist, NASA’s interest in psychological research has increased in the 21st century. The study describes both the challenges that NASA is having and the current research on the required skills.

Researchers have built a wide model of personality traits using the Big 5 model of personality. However, monitoring tools with adaptive training and feedback mechanisms need further development and validation to provide data support for spaceflight teams. Such tools will help teams to succeed in the Image Composite Editor (ICE) environment.

But it’s a bit of a struggle

The participants aren’t exposed to the real danger of being miles away from Earth because there’s always the evacuation option. Moreover, a Mars journey would imply a smaller place and a much longer period of time. Long-term simulations have been conducted – HI-SEAS on the top of the Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii for a year, HERA at the Johnson Space Center. Martha Lenio, commander of the HI-SEAS mission, stated that the experience is confusing at first and a bit difficult with so many people around. However, such a journey can’t even be properly replicated by The International Space Station (ISS).

So which skills do the future astronauts require?

Individuals should be moderately open to experience with a fair level of agreeableness, conscientiousness and high emotional stability. Moreover, the appropriate humour level is one important asset which may be influenced by cultural factors. For example, the astronauts aboard the ISS and crews in HERA have functioned better as a team with humour as a common feature. In the Antarctic, the experiments have proven that adaptability, resilience and team orientation allowed the participants to have control upon the situation and to collaborate more.

As our second lead editor, Anna C. Mackinno provides guidance on the stories Great Lakes Ledger reporters cover. She has been instrumental in making sure the content on the site is clear and accurate for our readers. If you see a particularly clever title, you can likely thank Anna. Anna received a BA and and MA from Fordham University.