Long-Duration Space Exploration and Emotional Health: Recommendations for Conceptualizing and Evaluating Risk.
Spaceflight to Mars will by far exceed the duration of any previous mission. Although behavioral health risks are routinely highlighted among the most serious threats to crew safety, understanding of specific emotional responses most likely to occur and interfere with mission success has lagged in comparison to other risk domains. Even within the domain of behavioral health, emotional constructs remain to be ‘unpacked’ to the same extent as other factors such as attention and fatigue. The current paper provides a review of previous studies that have examined emotional responses in isolated, confined, extreme environments (ICE) toward informing a needed research agenda. We include research conducted during space flight, long-duration space simulation analogs, and polar environments and utilize a widely-accepted and studied model of emotion and emotion regulation by Gross  to conceptualize specific findings. Lastly, we propose four specific directions for future research: (1) use of a guiding theoretical framework for evaluating emotion responses in ICE environments; (2) leveraging multi-method approaches to improve the reliability of subjective reports of emotional health; (3) a priori selection of precise emotional constructs to guide measure selection; and (4) focusing on positive in addition to negative emotion in order to provide a more complete understanding of individual risk and resilience.
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Citation : Alfano, C.A., Bower, J., Cowie, J., Lau, S. and Simpson, R.J., (2017) Long-duration space exploration and emotional health: Recommendations for conceptualizing and evaluating risk. Acta Astronautica, 142, pp. 289-299
Research Institute : Institute for Psychological Science
Peer Reviewed : Yes