Episode Summary

Directed by Jon Kalina,
Documentary Script by Jon Kalina
Narration written by Gary Lang

The greatest test of the human mind will be the projected almost three-year manned mission to Mars and back. Mental breakdown, sexual tension, near-suicide and mutiny have already taken place on shorter Earth orbit and space travel missions. The Achilles’ heel of the Mars mission may be the human factor.

Crew selection is perhaps the most critical of choices. At the start of space exploration, NASA selected military test pilots for missions – in the 1960s, one died per week. In the 1980s, scientists and schoolteachers were chosen to orbit Earth. Today, psychiatrists delve into the human psyche to discover the necessary attributes for a successful 21st century astronaut.

The Russians have the most experience in long missions. They test candidates by keeping them isolated and awake for days of non-stop repetitive tasks to duplicate the numbing mindless routine of months of space travel.

Life onboard will be crowded, noisy and dirty. There will be no water for showering and astronauts will drink their own purified urine. Noise, workload and disrupted circadian rhythms all cause sleep deprivation. Boring and repetitive food saps psychological and physical energy. What’s NASA cooking up for its crews?

Sex in space is a possibility with a mixed crew in close quarters. NASA says that is OK and natural, but different nationalities and customs may give rise to misunderstanding and friction.

Isolation and confinement can bring out strong emotions, even violence. Sedation and restraint could be necessary. Family problems on Earth could affect an astronaut’s ability to function. New methods of psychological assessment such as software that examines facial movements for signs of emotional disturbance are being tested.

Six months of boredom while travelling through space will be followed by six minutes of an astronaut’s life’s most intense activity and terror during the dangerous descent through Mars’ atmosphere. Training a crew to cope with the psychological pressure of his/her imminent death is a major hurdle.

Four personality types have been identified as the most perfect for a Mars mission: the driver, the analyst, the motivator and the relationship builder. Thus far, there has only been a 50 per cent success rate for landing un-manned spacecraft on Mars. Landing a manned craft is even more dangerous. The crew must face that grim reality.



Links and References

Daniel Baker
Dr. Daniel Baker is the Director of the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado-Boulder where he is also professor of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences. He is a space plasma physicist and has served as principal investigator on several NASA scientific programs. Baker is Chair of the U.S. National Research Council’s Committee on Solar and Space Physics and a member of the Space Studies Board. He researches space instrument design and space physics data analysis. He is now a lead investigator in the upcoming Radiation Belt Storm Probe mission that is part of NASA’s Living With a Star space program and an investigator on NASA’s MESSENGER (to Mercury) mission.

Paul Delaney
Baker has published over 700 papers and edited five books on space physics topics. He is a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union, the International Academy of Astronautics and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Professor of Physics and Astronomy at York University, Toronto, for the past 20 years, Dr. Paul Delaney received his B.S. at Australia’s National University in Canberra and his Master’s Degree at the University of Victoria. He has been awarded many York University faculty of science and engineering awards and was named one of the Top 10 best lecturers in Ontario in a TV Ontario competition in 2005. One of his classes deals with the possibility of life on Mars. A man with a deep passion for the study of the universe, Delaney is director of York University’s Observatory.

Chris Hadfield
Born in Sarnia, Ontario, Dr. Chris Hadfield is a man of many accomplishments: the first Canadian ever to leave a spacecraft and float freely in space (he performed two spacewalks on STS-100); first Canadian mission specialist; the first Canadian to operate the Canadarm in orbit and the only Canadian to ever board the Russian Space Station Mir.

After training as a fighter pilot in Cold Lake, Alberta, he spent three years flying CF-18s for the North American Aerospace Defence Command with 423 Squadron. He became a test pilot in the U.S. and has flown over 70 different types of aircraft. Assigned by the Canadian Space Agency to the NASA Johnson Space Centre in 1992, he was NASA’s Chief CapCom, the voice of mission control to astronauts in orbit, for 25 space shuttle missions. Hadfield was Mission Specialist on STS-74, which docked with Mir.

“Mars Rising” Episode 4 The Human Factor
Scientists and experts
in order of appearance
Nationality Company or Institution
James Garvin American NASA’s Chief Scientist Mars Exploration Program and Lunar Exploration
Patricia Santy American Ex NASA flight surgeon. University of Michigan
Julie Payette Canadian Canadian Space Agency, Chief Astronaut, Space Shuttle Discovery, Capsule communicator at MCC
Paul Delaney Canadian York University, Professor of Physics and Astronomy. Director, York University’s Observatory
Rostislav Bogdashevsky Russian Centre for Cosmonaut Training, Moscow
James Cameron Canadian NASA Adviser. Science team 2009 Mars Science Lab. Member Mars Society. Three time Academy Award-winner (‘Titanic’)
Dave Williams Canadian Canadian Space Agency, Astronaut. Crew commander NEEMO 9. Training for 3 space walks Shuttle Endeavour August 2007
Jerry Linenger American NASA Astronaut, MIR Cosmonaut. Aboard International Space Station MIR for 132 days
Sergei Volkov Russian Cosmonaut. Son of Russian cosmonaut Aleksandr Volkov.
Scheduled for ISS17
Roman Romanenko Russian Cosmonaut. Son of cosmonaut Yuri Romanenko
Valeri Polyakov Russian Retired Cosmonaut. 678 cumulative days in space. Soyuz & MIR. Biological Problems physician.
David F. Dinges American University of Pennsylvania. Professor of Psychology in Psychiatry. Chief Division of Sleep and Chronobiology
Michele Perchonok American NASA, JSC, Advanced Food Scientist. Space food for long duration missions
Gary Stutte American NASA, Kennedy Space Centre. Food in Space
Chris Hadfield Canadian Canadian Space Agency, Astronaut. First Canadian to operate Canadarm in space. NASA Chief of International Space Stations
Vladmir Semenov Russian Videocosmos
Elena Kondakova Russian State Duma, Cosmonaut Tester.
MIR Space Station 1994. 178 days in two space flights. Hero of Russia
Raye Kass Canadian University of Concordia, Psychologist. Small Group Behaviours. Space Simulated Missions
Laurence Palinkas American University of California, Medical Anthropologist. Extreme Environment, Astronauts in Space
Jean Lemire Canadian Mission Antarctica. Isolated for months on sail boat Sedna in Antarctica. NASA “guinea pigs for a mission to Mars”
Dimitri Metaxas American Rutgers University, Director Vision Analyses. Optical recognition of stress
A. Jeffrey Jones American NASA, Flight Surgeon. Simulated Mars conditions in the Arctic Haughton-Mars Project