Psychology in Space – Mental Health Assessment in Space Analogs

    Research output


    Humanity is planning to finally leave low-Earth orbit again and aim for the stars. There are currently plans to colonize the moon and Mars after almost 22 years of continuous human presence in space on the ISS. Human spaceflight is also becoming increasingly popular with the rise of the ‘New Space’ industry. However, just because our technology can soon take us to these far away places, does that mean we should And who will we send there As we know, space is an extremely hostile environment for the human body and mind. The focus of this thesis lies in the importance of space psychology. Learning how to deal with extreme environments can protect us from the hazards of space such as isolation, confinement, and teach us how to deal with the potential risks of radiation, microgravity, etc. Space psychology also teaches us how crews can best deal with challenges regarding human interactions in space, as well as mental health issues that could arise during missions. A great way to perform psychological studies for the space industry is in space analog missions. In this study, we collected data using a series of psychological questionnaires in 8 analog missions at the Analog Astronaut Training Center in Poland. We hypothesized that the general mental health of analog astronauts would decline during their week of isolation and confinement. We also explored how we could improve astronaut selection in the future by looking for a possible influence of empathy/personality traits on the group environment during these analog missions. Results indicated that there was no general decline in the mental health of analog astronauts during their one-week mission. In fact, an overall improvement in mental health was observed. Several factors could be at the basis of this which should be explored in future research. We did find some interesting connections between certain group environment aspects and empathy/personality traits, further investigation should find a perfect trade-off between these traits to improve future astronaut selection. More focus on psychological research in the space industry will be imperative for the success of future long-duration space missions, as well as for the field of psychology in extreme environments here on Earth.
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationMaster of Science
    Awarding Institution
    • KU Leuven
    • Baatout, Sarah, Supervisor
    • Baselet, Bjorn, SCK CEN Mentor
    Date of Award1 Jul 2022
    StateSubmitted - 1 Jul 2022

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