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Jan 27 2015

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The “Third Quarter” effect on long duration missions

Here’s an interesting article on the psychological effects of long duration missions. Lots of good stuff in the article (read the whole thing!), including:

On at least three occasions Russian missions had to be terminated due to psychological issues that developed among the cosmonauts. Although such extreme occurrences are rare, the mental and emotional well being of the crew (or the lack thereof) has almost certainly impacted mission outcomes to at least some degree.

Holy Crap!! I guess the mad Russian cosmonaut in “Armageddon” is more true than I realized:

Sigh…”Armageddon”…such an entertaining-but-terrible-depiction-of-real-space movie. If they’d only been able to depict space and asteroids as they really are, they could have had an even better hit on their hands. But I digress…

In his book Spacefaring: The Human Dimension, Albert Harrison suggests that there are three stages that emerge over time during long-term missions, whether in space or under (or on) the sea. The first stage is characterized by excitement and anxiety, the second by boredom and depression, and the third by increased aggressiveness and emotional outbursts—something Harrison refers to as “third quarter phenomenon” since it seems to occur just past the mid-point in a mission. What is interesting is that these three stages seem to occur regardless of the total length of a given mission or rotation, be it three weeks, three months, or a year.

Fascinating…all the more reason to provide as much space, gyms and entertainment as possible for the trek.

The article goes on to posit that since Mars One won’t have a mission end (it’s a one way trip), it’s difficult to say how or whether Third Quarter effects will manifest. However, the author strongly recommends that there be some guarantee of a return to Earth for those who want it, otherwise ANYTHING could happen.

Well worth the time to read.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.newspaceraces.com/2015/01/27/the-third-quarter-effect-on-long-duration-missions/

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