Physical Hazards of Space Exploration and the Biological Bases of Behavioral Health and Performance in Extreme Environments

Julia M. Schom

University of California - Los Angeles KBR/NASA's Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center

Peter G. Roma

KBR/NASA's Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center

CONTENTS

Introduction................................................................................................................2

Core Neurobehavioral Systems for Space Exploration..............................................2

Arousal/Regulatory and Sensorimotor Systems....................................................4

Negative and Positive Valence...............................................................................5

Cognitive and Social Processes.............................................................................6

Spaceflight Hazards and Physical Risks to Behavioral Health and Performance......9

Radiation...............................................................................................................9

Altered Gravity....................................................................................................10

Hostile/Closed Environments..............................................................................11

Isolation and Confinement..................................................................................12

Distance from Earth............................................................................................13

Summary and Conclusion........................................................................................15

Acknowledgments....................................................................................................15

References................................................................................................................16

Introduction

Venturing into the far reaches of the universe will challenge astronauts’ bodies and minds in extreme environments unlike anything on Earth. Although humans are highly adaptable, the physical hazards of long-duration space exploration (LDSE) pose a unique constellation of threats to biobehavioral functioning, individual and team performance, and mission success. NASA’s Human Research Program identifies five principal hazards of human spaceflight (Whiting & Abadie, n.d.). These hazards include radiation, gravity fields, hostile and closed environments, isolation and confinement, and increased distance from the Earth. Insofar as individual and team behavioral health, performance, and adaptation are regulated by the brain, the direct and indirect effects of the physical LDSE environment on the neurobehavioral mechanisms mediating behavioral, psychological, and social functioning are worthy of consideration by all stakeholders and supporters of human space exploration.

The primary goal of this chapter is to provide a friendly reminder of a not-so- friendly reality: space is a dangerous place. However inspiring it may be, space exploration in any form is a physically dangerous and often life-threatening endeavor, the risks of which only compound over time. First, we provide a selective overview of key neurobehavioral systems underlying individual and team behavioral health, performance, and adaptation in extreme operational settings. We then review each of the five spaceflight hazards and consider how they may affect mission success through direct and indirect action on these neurobehavioral systems. Given the distinctively challenging physical risks of LDSE missions, our overarching goal is to encourage integrated, multidisciplinary approaches to research and operations that consider the interaction of biological, psychological, social, and environmental factors in support of long-duration space exploration crews.

 
Source
< Prev   CONTENTS   Source   Next >