LIVING ALOFT: Human Requirements for Extended Spaceflight






[287] Organizations exist within larger social frameworks. Although space missions will be separated from Earth by ever-increasing amounts of distance and time, they will nonetheless be influenced by Earth's social systems, including mission-control systems. First, spacecrews are likely to have internalized many of the values, goals, and norms of these systems. Second, spacecrews are likely to be dependent upon these other systems for legitimation and for economic support. Third, spacecrews are likely to maintain (sometimes erratic) communication with many of these systems. This section reviews some of the ways that space missions are likely to interact with their- social environments; that is, social systems or subsystems which are external to the boundaries of the flights themselves.

The amount of influence that the sponsoring agency, home community, or other Earth- based organization is likely to have on a mission is expected to vary as a function of four general factors. These are the degree of overlapping membership in the Earth-based organization and the crew, the stage of the mission, the autonomy of the mission, and communication links. For example, we hypothesize that NASA or another sponsoring agency is likely to maintain a high degree of influence on a mission (1) when crewmembers are drawn from NASA's ranks and endorse NASA's goals; (2) relatively early in a mission, before crewmembers have psychologically disengaged from home, and relatively late in a mission, as crewmembers begin to anticipate their return home; (3) when the authority structure is centralized, with the Earth remaining the site of central control; and [288] (4) when there are good lines of communication between the spacecraft and Earth.


Boundary Roles


Certain positions serve as interfaces between one organization or subsystem and another. Individuals who occupy such positions are referred to as "boundary role persons" (Adams, 1976). In space, boundary roles will be filled by certain crewmembers and by selected members of mission control.

Boundary role persons (BRPs) serve as agents for purposes of bargaining and negotiation; that is, they attempt to influence the behavior of other persons and organizations whose priorities may differ from the priorities of their own organization. As the target of influence attempts, BRPs are forced to depict the interfacing organization's interests to their own constituencies.

Because BRPs have close dealings with representatives of other organizations, they are likely to be closely monitored by their constituencies and to be expected to display openly their loyalty and adherence to group norms (Adams, 1976). As negotiating agents, BRPs affect the outcomes that each organization experiences.

BRPs contribute heavily to the view that each organization has of the other. That is, as representatives of their respective organizations, BRPs have considerable control over the image that their organization represents to interfacing organizations. Similarly, much of what people learn about other organizations they learn from their associates who serve as BRPs. In effect, each BRP is a gatekeeper who regulates the flow of incoming information about other organizations and the flow of outgoing information about his or her own organization. Thus, BRPs affect the kinds of attitudes and views that each organization develops of the other.

Each BRP is subject to multiple influences. These include (1) the norms of his or her own organization or constituency; (2) the interfacing organization's norms, which limit the interfacing BRP's opportunities to negotiate; (3) the BRP's own attitudes, needs, and predispositions; and (4) the interfacing BRP's attitudes, needs, and predispositions (Adams, 1976).

[289] To a large extent, the quality of the relationship between a spacecrew and mission control will depend on the behavior of the people who occupy the interfacing boundary roles. It will be incumbent upon spacecraft and ground-control communicators to avoid impasses resulting from conflicting norms, to arrange cooperative ventures with equitable outcomes, and to display appropriate emotions.

There are many important questions surrounding the creation and functioning of the spacecraft communicator, the mission-control communicator, and other boundary roles. How should boundary roles be defined, given the requirements and goals of each mission? What kinds of selection and training procedures will ensure that boundary roles are satisfactorily performed? How do electronic communications media, such as two-way radio or television, affect the interaction of BRPs? What are the stresses and long-term psychological effects of occupying a boundary position?


Interorganizational Conflict


A salient interest of mission planners and managers is maintaining good relationships with people aboard a spacecraft and others with whom the latter must interact, both within and outside of NASA. Although, as we shall soon see, conflict can serve some useful purposes, relationships that are considered good are not marked by hostility and divisiveness. Certainly, one important relationship to preserve is that between a spacecrew and mission control. As the sponsor of the mission, mission control seeks to maintain its authority and achieve its goals. Mission control also seeks to maintain cooperative relationships with the spacecrew. Yet there is increasing evidence that externally based authority may be difficult to sustain and that spacecrew/mission-control interactions can become marked by misunderstanding and friction. First, many studies of isolated and confined groups have found hostility directed toward external authorities (Kanas and Fedderson, 1971; Kubis, 1972). Second, during SMD III, scientific personnel expressed negative attitudes toward planners and managers (Helmreich et al., 1979a). Third, actual spacecrew/mission-control interactions have occasionally assumed a negative form. These involve an incident in which the Apollo 7 crew removed biosensors (Leonov and Lebedev, 1975), and a potentially more serious incident involving a Skylab crew (Blush, 1979; Cooper,1976,1979).

[290] According to Cooper (1976,1979), the cordiality which characterized the relations between the first two manned Skylab missions (Skylab 2 and 3) and mission control did not characterize the relations between the third manned Skylab mission (Skylab 4) and mission control. Instead, the relationship between Skylab 4 and mission control was strained for approximately the first half of the mission. According to Cooper (1976), the crew was given to "blistering language," displayed a high degree of "grumpiness," and reacted to external authority with "ridicule, hostility, and exasperation." The climax came when, according to Cooper, the Skylab 4 crew "rebelled" by taking a day off. After the "rebellion," the relations between the crew and mission control improved, and so did the crewmembers' performance.

Not everyone shares Cooper's view of these incidents. According to Bluth (1979), many of the "blistering comments" about the living conditions were in direct response to a habitability questionnaire. Rather than symptomatizing general irritability and peevishness, the critical comments and complaints reflected candid assessments of faulty equipment. Bluth agrees that the astronauts did take a day off. However, she characterized the work slowdown as a legitimate attempt on the commander's part to put a "hold" on activities pending a clarification of instructions and establishment of a suitable work pace. However, there is some agreement that the Skylab 4 crew appeared to be under an unusual degree of pressure, and that there was an unanticipated degree of friction between this particular crew and mission control.

One important irritant to the Skylab 4 crew was an overprogramming of the astronauts' time (Bluth,1979; Cooper,1976,1979; Weick, 1977). To keep the astronauts occupied and to make good use of the crew's very expensive time in space, planners had assigned the astronauts a seemingly endless string of tasks. Although the pace might have been maintained if the astronauts had been on a short-duration flight, they were aloft for a 3-month mission and hence required a different balance between work and nonwork activities.

A second possible source of friction between Skylab 4 and mission control may have been the latter's response to the astronauts' unsuccessful attempts to hide illness (Cooper, 1976). This episode can be viewed as the result of a conflicting interpretation of who is in control the crew commander or mission control. The commander decided against advising mission control that the crew had experienced motion sickness (perhaps to avoid bad publicity), but [291] the commander's decision was criticized and effectively reversed by authorities on Earth. The incident was, quite possibly, a source of chagrin and embarrassment which set an unpleasant note on which to begin a long stay in space.

Third, unfulfilled expectations might have contributed to the Skylab 4/mission-control conflict. Clearly, there were problems with some of the Skylab facilities. Frustrations and disappointments which are relatively minor under normal conditions tend to be exaggerated under conditions of isolation and confinement. The mission planners, as the agents perceived responsible for the unpleasant state of affairs, were the likely targets for subsequent aggression.

Most analyses of spacecrew/mission-control conflicts state or imply that the conflicts involved are motivational conflicts or conflicts of interest. The emphasis on such motivational determinants of conflict reflects conflict theory and research as a whole. However, cognitive factors, or differences in the ways in which people make judgments, can also breed conflict. Research by Hammond, Brehmer, and their associates suggests that cognitive conflicts can be particularly pernicious and difficult to resolve. Furthermore, what begins as an intellectual disagreement can develop full-blown motivational and emotional components (Hammond and Brehmer, 1973; Hammond, Stewart, Brehmer, and Steinmann, 1975; Brehmer, 1976).

Cognitive conflicts reflect differences in the data and rules that form the bases for individual judgments on social or other issues which do not have one objectively correct solution. When different people draw upon different sets of experience (data), and apply different means of analysis and methods of decisionmaking (rules), they may render conflicting judgments. Each person sees his or her judgment as accurate and conflicting judgments as faulty. The other person's judgment may be viewed as reflecting duplicity or sinister motives, rather than reflecting a different perspective on the problem. Rational discussion is unlikely to eliminate the conflict, because social judgments are only quasi-rational. That is, people cannot fully identify all the data that influenced their decisions, describe the weights and combined rules that were used to treat the data, or explain the procedures which transformed the results of their private analyses into public behaviors.

Available research (Brehmer, 1976) suggests that people involved in cognitive conflicts may eventually recognize that other people are using different mixtures of experience and analyses as [292] bases for their judgments. Following such recognition, they are torn between serving the interests of accuracy and factuality as they see it by maintaining their present views, or altering their approaches to reduce the conflict. Generally, subjects in cognitive conflict experiments prefer accuracy to conflict reduction. If they do try to reduce the conflict, they are likely to abandon their own positions before they understand the conflicting positions, and to make a series of trial-and-error judgments which makes them look very inconsistent, if not outright capricious. This impression of inconsistency itself serves to perpetuate the conflict. Continued interaction may slowly reduce cognitive conflict, but it is unlikely to result in its eradication (Brehmer, 1976).

The implications of the cognitive conflict research for spacecrew/mission-control interactions are clear. Personnel at each location may be drawn from different backgrounds and traditions and are certainly privy to different data. For example, compared with mission control, Skylab 4 crewmembers had first-hand knowledge of the effects of weightlessness, the inconvenience posed by the misplacement of equipment, and the possibilities of unexpected scientific opportunities. Given such considerations, the generally modest level of conflict associated with spacecrew/mission-control interactions is far more remarkable than the one or two flare-ups which provide the exceptions to the general rule.

The Skylab 4 experience raises a number of issues. The first is identifying an optimal balance between work and nonwork activities for missions of varying lengths. To reduce the threat of overprogramming, mission planners and managers, first, might maintain a high degree of sensitivity to the socioemotional requirements of prolonged space flights. Second, planners and managers might incorporate principles or organizational self-design by further involving experienced astronauts in the planning of tasks and activities and by incorporating scheduling flexibility so that crews can readily modify their timetables on the basis of conditions encountered in space. Third, it might prove useful to conduct a path analysis of attitudes toward supplies, equipment, and living conditions on the one hand, and attitudes toward mission planners and managers on the other. It is not clear whether opinions regarding supplies and equipment are causes of, or symptoms of, spacecrew/mission-control conflicts. Another problem is identifying procedures for ensuring that crews and mission control have shared interpretations of each other's motives and behaviors. It is particularly important to find ways to make criticisms constructive and to minimize such consequences as [293] embarrassment. Finally, there is the wide-open area of cognitive conflict. Future research might explore ways that differing parties can become privy to each other's data or better grasp each other's analytical processes and decision rules.


Models of Conflict Management


Thomas (1976) points out that whereas theories in such areas as international relations and race relations tend to focus almost exclusively on the destructive aspects of intergroup conflict, organizational theorists tend to view limited amounts of conflict as beneficial. First, limited conflict may contribute to an optimal level of arousal which in turn has beneficial effects on performance and satisfaction. In some cases, at least, conflict has been credited with alleviating depression (Leonov and Lebedev, 1975). Second, conflicting views may have to be presented before it is possible to identify or synthesize the best solution to a problem. Third, conflict can draw attention to problems which would otherwise go unremedied. For example, in the absence of conflict, the Skylab 4 crew might have remained saddled with a work schedule which undermined their morale and impaired the overall quality of their performance throughout the entire flight. Fourth, conflict is often instrumental, in the sense that it helps the contending parties reach important goals. Such accomplishments are not necessarily at the other party's expense, since conflict may simultaneously force the two parties to identify mutual goals or to enter into mutually beneficial arrangements.

Because conflict has functional as well as dysfunctional consequences, contemporary organizational theorists are less devoted to eliminating conflict than to managing or limiting its expression. Highly relevant in this regard are two complementary models developed by Thomas (1976). The first of these, the structural model, is concerned with the conditions which shape or channel conflict. It suggests certain constraints which decrease the likelihood that destructive forms of conflict will be initiated. The second model, the process model, addresses specific conflict episodes. It offers suggestions concerning how conflict can be minimized or managed once it has been sparked. Stated another way, the structural model is oriented toward prevention; the process model is oriented toward remedy or cure.

The structural model of conflict-The structural model of conflict is built upon four variables. These are behavioral predispositions, [294] social pressures, incentive structures, and rules (Thomas, 1976).

Behavioral predispositions refer to attitudes, needs, personality traits, and the like. As noted in our chapter on group dynamics, attitudinal dissimilarities, competitive needs, own- gain or relative-gain motivation, incompetence, and socially devalued personal qualities breed conflict. Planners and managers must not only be sensitive to the compatibility of individuals who comprise the crew, they must also be sensitive to the compatibility of the BPRs who, through telecommunications, link spacecrews with mission control.

Social pressures are of two types. The first type, constituent social pressure, flows from the groups which the parties in the conflict represent. Typically, notes Thomas, constituent social pressures are directed toward competitive stances, although the reasons for this are not always clear. The other type, ambient social pressure, flows from outsiders, and includes larger social systems than those which encompass the conflicting parties. Ambient pressures tend to channel the conflict generated by constituent pressure into socially acceptable forms.

Certainly, a major problem confronting space mission sponsors is to ensure that potentially conflicting subsystems, such as space crews and ground crews, are exposed to constituent or ambient pressures which limit destructive conflicts. There are basically three techniques for fostering conflict-limiting norms. The first is selection. Specifically, crew candidates can be screened to select those who subscribe to conflict-limiting norms. Second, training and indoctrination can promote conflict-limiting norms. Third, reward systems can be geared to foster peaceful solutions to problems.

The influence of NASA over the norms of crewmembers, however, may be expected to diminish as missions become larger and prolonged. First, increased crew size forces decreased selectivity. Second, poor or intermittent communication may make it difficult to maintain a high degree of ambient social pressure. Finally, as noted in the earlier discussion of control systems, certain rewards may lose force under conditions of extended-duration spaceflight.

An example for maintaining ambient social pressure during long-duration missions in the future has been given by the role of U.S. Consulates in maritime affairs during the era of sailing (Day, 1969) Such consulates, available in many if not most major foreign [295] ports, provided important contacts for ships and crews that had been away from the U.S. mainland for a period of years. The consulates buttressed the captain's authority and provided crews with redress against the captain's excesses. In addition, ship, captain, and crew were offered protections, services, and supplies that were not available at sea. In the distant future, space consulates located on large satellites or even planets might serve an analogous function, both to mediate disputes within the crew and between the crew and the ground.

The third element in the model, incentive structure, refers to the distribution of rewards following cooperative and noncooperative transactions. Of crucial importance here are the conflicts of interest that occur when two or more subsystems (for example, the crew and mission control) pursue mutually exclusive goals. As noted in our discussion of group dynamics, conflicts of interest may be minimized or eliminated by superordinate goals; that is, goals which are of overriding importance to both groups or factions (Sherif et al., 1961). Thus, an essential part of the design process is identifying and incorporating goals which can be shared by ail subsystems (and by each individual within a given subsystem) and which override separatist or special-interest goals.

Finally, rules and procedures refer to laws, customs, conventions, and the like which govern ongoing negotiations. Presumably, such rules and procedures will be established through the efforts of international courts of law, the home community, the sponsoring agency, and, on a less formal basis, the contending parties themselves. Decision rules provide advance codes regarding specific conflicts of interest; procedural rules provide guidelines for bargaining, negotiation, and reaching resolutions in instances not covered by the decision rules. To the extent that such rules are effective, each party accepts the outcomes or constraints imposed by the rules and bears the expense in terms of decreased discretionary power. Reliance on rules generates less hostility than the exercise of coercive power, a common response to conflict situations (Thomas, 1976).

Space organizations, like other organizations, thus require sensible sets of rules for conflict containment and management. Some of these rules must offer advance resolutions to likely conflicts of interest, and others must govern the process of resolving conflicts of interest when prejudgment has not been made. Particularly important procedural rules will be those governing third-party intervention, [296] including mediation (the use of a third party to bring the two contenders together) and arbitration (the use of a third party to render a decision). Rule enforcement, mediation, and arbitration from a distance are also important topics for future research.

The process model of conflict- Thomas' (1976) process model focuses on specific conflict episodes. It involves five variables: frustration, conceptualization, behavior, others' reactions, and outcome. These variables represent sequential events. The pattern of these events will determine the likelihood and intensity of subsequent aggressive episodes.

Perceived frustrations by one party initiates the conflict episode. Frustration, in this model, refers to any interference that makes it difficult for the party to satisfy a need or reach a goal. Crewmembers, for example, may perceive ground-based personnel as frustrators if the latter authorizes low-grade or faulty supplies or equipment, overburdens the crew with endless tasks, or interferes with the crew's normal pattern of social relations. Similarly, ground personnel may perceive the crew as frustrating if the crew fails to follow their instructions.

Conceptualization refers to the manner in which the frustrated party views the perceived frustrator. Conceptualization subsumes many variables such as magnitude of frustration, importance of frustration, implications of frustration (inadvertent or deliberate), and the framing and evaluation of possible responses.

The parties' conceptualizations of the conflict are, according to Thomas (1976), an immensely important and unexplored determinant of the conflict episode. Presumably, contending parties conceptualize frustrations in different ways, and this can add to the conflict. For example, the frustrating party may view the frustration as accidental and of small magnitude. The frustrated party may view the frustration as deliberate, of great magnitude, and fraught with far-reaching consequences. The frustrated party may then react in a way that it considers appropriate, but which the frustrating party would view as an overreaction. Presumably, understanding each contender's view of the situation-and helping each contender understand the other side's view of the situation-will help minimize and resolve conflicts. There are a number of unexplored research issues regarding conceptualization of conflict in the restricted environment of space. We would hypothesize, for example, that breadth of perspective, empathy, and other personal qualities would be particularly [297] important to nondestructive conceptualizations under conditions of limited communications.

One party's behavior and the other party's reactions constitute interaction sequences which can escalate, contain, or deescalate the conflict. Specific hypotheses can be derived from Gouldner's (1960) norm of reciprocity, which suggests that a conciliatory move on one party's part is likely to be matched by similar actions on the other party's part. Although intended for application at the intersocietal level, Osgood's proposal for defusing intersystem conflict may be appropriate at the interorganizational level. Osgood's plan is called Graduated Reciprocation in Tension Reduction or GRIT (Osgood 1962). He suggests that tensions typically build up slowly over time as a result of repeated incidents involving implacability and threat. Tensions can also be reduced slowly over time through a series of conciliatory actions. These actions, Osgood states, should be graduated and reciprocated. That is, the initial gestures should be relatively minor, and further overtures should await a conciliatory response on the other party's part. Small steps make it possible to maintain face and a sense of security while attempting to transform the opponent into a partner.

Finally, there are the outcomes of the conflict. One outcome is an integrative agreement or true resolution of the issue to each party's satisfaction. If both parties can be satisfied, the stage is set for subsequent cooperation. Domination, compromise, accommodation, and other outcomes are likely to leave residual feelings of frustration, hostility, and mistrust. Such feelings breed stereotypes, augment perceptions of incompatibility, and in other ways set the stage for future conflict (Thomas, 1976). Thus, although a conflict appears to be over, there may be an aftermath which sets the stage for additional trouble. Effective action after a conflict may thus minimize the chances of recurrence (Caplow, 1976).

In summary, the causes and cures for intersystem conflicts are an important area for future research. Because within certain limits conflict can serve useful organizational functions, conflict containment and management are more appropriate (as well as realistic) goals than are complete prevention or elimination. Possible points of departure for future research include Thomas' structural model of conflict, which is oriented toward prevention, and Thomas' functional model of conflict, which is oriented toward containment or cure.


[298] Reassimilation


Upon return from a mission, crewmembers will need to be reassimilated into their home communities. In the future, when spaceflight is routine, tickertape parades, public appearances, and other acknowledgments will be reserved only for astronauts returning from the most heroic of missions. The welcome awaiting the bulk of tomorrow's space voyagers will be comparable to that accorded an average sailor returning from a peacetime voyage, rather than to that accorded a victorious admiral returning from war.

Clinical studies and surveys suggest that separation brought about through military service or other work-related duties can be highly disruptive to the family that remains behind (Greiff and Munter, 1980; Isay, 1968; Pearlman, 1970). Clearly, the remaining family member who bears the brunt of the negative consequences of separation is the spouse; almost invariably this has been the wife. Separation confronts her with three sets of challenges. First, and most obviously, there are feelings of loneliness and sexual frustration. The marital obligation prevents, or at least imposes a barrier to, the formation of compensatory relationships. Second, she must assume responsibility for areas that were formerly in her husband's domain. For example, she may have to take over family finances, keep the home and car in good repair, and so forth. Third, she must assume full responsibility for parenting; serve as both a male and female role model, make all decisions regarding the children's education and welfare, act as disciplinarian, and so forth. The same general challenges would have to be faced by a husband who remained at home.

The impact of separation on family life involves three phases. Prior to departure there is likely to be a period of bickering and general marital dissatisfaction. During the separation, the person who is away is likely to experience guilt about missing important family occasions (birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, and so forth) and about overburdening his or her spouse with abandoned duties. The person at home is likely to experience anger, resentment, and depression; depression, in particular, has been repeatedly noted among submariners' wives (Isay, 1968; Pearlman, 1970). Following the separation is a painful period of readaptation. Now is the time when hostilities and resentments are freely expressed. At this point, the wife is expected to abandon her hard-won abilities to make and enforce important family decisions. The better her performance as family manager during the period of separation, the harder it may be [299] for her to reassume a shared or secondary leadership role within the family. Both partners are confronted with the task of redefining spousal and familial roles. Each spouse may have expectations which make awkwardness and conflict difficult to bear. For example, the person who has been away may feel that a hero's welcome is in order, and both may feel that the reunification should be a time for joy and wedded bliss. The discrepancies between such high expectations and bleak realities may exacerbate interpersonal conflicts and feelings of guilt.

The impact of a mission on an astronaut's family is important not only in its own right, but because it could affect the astronaut's motivation and morale. Specifically, the stresses and conflicts associated with departure, guilt over abandoning one's familial obligations, recognition that one is generating resentment in one's spouse, and the painful necessity of having to revise major life roles upon return to Earth could discourage qualified and desirable people from applying for service as an astronaut, and make it difficult to retain astronauts whose training and experience represent very sizable investments. According to Greiff and Munter (1980), the costs of separation are playing an increasing role in people's decisions not to accept important new corporate assignments.

Consequently, we consider it important to examine the effects of impending separation, separation, and reentry on the astronauts' relationship to his or her family and upon the family itself. It would be useful to identify the factors that are associated with a successful adjustment at each stage, and the kinds of resources that might be of use. For example, during the early years of spaceflight, most astronauts' families lived in the same community and could provide support for one another while the husbands were away. This type of close-knit social support network might not be practical in the future, but some sort of useful programs and resources might be devised. Another possibility, of course, is to send entire families into space.