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Spacefaring: The Human Dimension

Albert A. Harrison
Copyright Date: 2001
Edition: 1
Pages: 342
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    The stars have always called us, but only for the past forty years or so have we been able to respond by traveling in space. This book explores the human side of spaceflight: why people are willing to brave danger and hardship to go into space; how human culture has shaped past and present missions; and the effects of space travel on health and well-being. A comprehensive and authoritative treatment of its subject, this book combines statistical studies, rich case histories, and gripping anecdotal detail as it investigates the phenomenon of humans in space-from the earliest spaceflights to the missions of tomorrow. Drawing from a strong research base in the behavioral sciences, Harrison covers such topics as habitability, crew selection and training, coping with stress, group dynamics, accidents, and more. In addition to taking a close look at spacefarers themselves,Spacefaringreviews the broad organizational and political contexts that shape human progress toward the heavens. With the ongoing construction of the International Space Station, the human journey to the stars continues, and this book will surely help guide the way.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-92965-4
    Subjects: Psychology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
    (pp. 1-18)

    For several months during 1997, the world riveted its attention on Russia’s Mir Space Station. Successor to a string of Salyut stations, Mir had been launched eleven years before. Arguably the world’s first true space station (the United States’ Skylab had not been intended for continuing occupancy), Mir offered previously unparalleled challenges and opportunities for humans in space. Over the years a succession of Russian cosmonauts had gone about their business, conducting science, trying new commercial applications, and setting records for time aloft. Beginning in 1995 the cosmonauts were joined in turn by the U.S. astronauts Norman E. Thagard, Shannon...

    (pp. 19-37)

    On the Moon’s surface, the Apollo 14 astronauts Alan B. Shepard Jr. and Edgar D. Mitchell slowly worked their way toward the rim of a crater, dragging a small cart that bounced silently behind them. The view through the visors of their heavy space suits was stark and otherworldly, and the horizon seemed both close and far away. Science was their primary purpose, and they were committed to very ambitious rock gathering. Their flight followed close on the heels of Apollo 13, where an equipment failure had forced the crew to abort the Moon landing. Mitchell and Shepard were under...

    (pp. 38-57)

    To some observers, the flame billowing forth from the mighty Proton rocket had an orange tinge, suggesting that something was awry. But apprehensions were laid to rest that day in November 1998, when the Proton placed Zarya, the first module of the ISS, into orbit. Zarya serves as a fuel depot and control module. In early December, the space shuttleEndeavourcarried the second module, Unity, into orbit and successfully connected it to Zarya. This required incredible skill and determination on the part of the astronauts. Over the next few years, completion of the 520-ton space station would require 12...

    (pp. 58-79)

    Some of the diamond mines near Johannesburg, South Africa, reach three thousand meters underground, and the deeper they are the higher their interior temperatures. Most are very humid, and conditions in these artificial tropics border on the intolerable. Heat stroke is a risk. As the miner’s temperature rises, symptoms include headache, irritability, delirium, and finally irreversible brain damage. As A. W. Sloan points out, we have two ways of coping with such extreme conditions.¹ Physiological adaptations are the bodily adjustments we make as we strive to maintain equilibrium. Upon entering the mine, body temperature, cardiac output, and pulmonary ventilation rise....

    (pp. 80-97)

    After his selection for a Gemini mission, Michael Collins received, as a joke gift, a garbage can with two tiny Gemini-style windows painted on its sides.¹ Although spacecraft have improved substantially since those days, they remain relatively small affairs that lack many of the comforts and conveniences of everyday life. Thus, balanced against the joy and excitement of flight are the limitations of spacecraft living. These limitations fall into three general areas.²

    First, spacecraft offer low levels of environmental comfort. This stems from cramped quarters, poor ventilation, temperature and humidity imbalances, high ambient noise levels, and makeshift or do-it-yourself services...

    (pp. 98-116)

    The Boeing Defense and Space Group offers helpful advice for aspiring astronauts. After stating that there are “probably as many paths to that goal as there are astronauts,” they identify characteristics that many astronauts share. Most astronauts developed strong interests in science and math very early in school. Most participated in sports and worked during summer vacations, and about a third were involved in scouting. They did well on standardized tests, chose careers in science and engineering shortly after they entered college, and they got great grades. They also learned teamwork—“an absolutely vital skill in the complex undertakings...

    (pp. 117-136)

    The Apollo Moon landings are arguably the most spectacular achievement in the history of humankind. On July 16, 1969, when Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins set forth for the first lunar landing, nobody could be sure that Armstrong and Aldrin would be able to successfully ascend from the Moon’s surface and rejoin Collins, who was orbiting above. The president at that time, Richard M. Nixon, had prepared a brief announcement in case Armstrong and Aldrin were lost. He wrote, “Fate has ordained that the men who went to the moon to explore in peace will stay on the...

    (pp. 137-157)

    As he prepared for one of the last Apollo Moon flights, a primary goal of Eugene Cernan was to weld three people into a crew.¹ As commander he knew he had to consider “more than switches and numbers.” In his estimation, “people problems usually are much more difficult to handle than mechanical glitches,” and “any failure on their part would be my failure too.” To succeed as commander he had to understand his mates on a personal level, know what made them tick, and earn their confidence in him as the mission’s skipper. His views are fully consistent with modern...

    (pp. 158-172)

    In the earliest days of spaceflight, the basic requirement was to go into space and get back alive. Over the years, however, other tasks have been added. Now, spacefarers not only fly and maintain spacecraft, they launch and retrieve small satellites, conduct scientific research, construct space stations, and otherwise develop the infrastructure for the long-term habitation and industrialization of space. They also engage in less glamorous activities, such as repairing life support systems, vacuuming filters, packing garbage, preparing food, flattening out empty containers, and unpacking and stowing equipment. There is always more work to do than can be accomplished easily,...

    (pp. 173-189)

    Given the sheer size and complexity of space missions coupled with the lethality of outer space, our safety record during the first half century of exploration is remarkable. Nonetheless, amid a long list of triumphs are occasional tragedies that involve the loss of Russian and American life.

    On March 23, 1961, the cosmonaut trainee Valentin Bondarenko died after he unwittingly tossed a small piece of alcohol-soaked cotton, used for wiping off electrode paste, onto a hot plate. A fire erupted in the oxygen-rich environment of the simulator, and rescuers could not open the door quickly because the high atmospheric pressure...

    (pp. 190-205)

    Apparently not every space crew has been dominated by relentless work schedules. The first Mir crews awoke about 8 A.M. Moscow time. Until about 10 A.M. they ate breakfast and took care of their personal hygiene needs. Next came three hours of work and one hour of vigorous exercise. After an hour lunch break, there was another four-hour block of work and exercise. Around 7 P.M. they began preparing dinner. After they ate, cosmonauts could relax, have fun, or (because not even spacefarers are exempt) catch up on their paperwork. Each week, they had two days off. There was no...

    (pp. 206-221)

    Although as a paid passenger Toyohiro Akiyama had the assignment of accumulating videotape and broadcasting live during the ten-minute periods when Mir was in television contact with Japan, David M. Harland proposes that as the first fee-paying visitor to Mir, Akiyama qualified as a space tourist. The “stereotyped Japanese tourist,” Harland writes, Akiyama “brought with him half a dozen cameras and a hundred rolls of film to augment the several hundred kilograms of television equipment that had already been brought up.”¹ Akiyama had trouble adapting to microgravity, experienced space sickness, and vomited. But looking back, Akiyama gave the flight high...

    (pp. 222-240)

    Mercury, Gemini, Vostok, Apollo, Skylab, and Salyut are behind us. We are almost two decades into the space shuttle era, and the ISS is in orbit. We know how to return to the Moon and take our first steps on Mars; these ventures remain in the future but seem tantalizingly close. Let us peer deeper into the recesses of the crystal ball, to those distant times when people may be living on the Moon and Mars and when huge orbiting colonies may house more people than live on Earth.

    As in the case of space tourism, the discussion of space...

    (pp. 241-261)

    Under optimistic projections, we will set forth on the first interstellar voyage before zioo, perhaps within the expected life span of today’s children. According to pessimistic projections, for all intents and purposes human interstellar travel is impossible, and the reality is that “you can’t get there from here.” The problem, given present-day technology, is distance.

    Distances between the stars (including our own Sun and its neighbors) are measured in light-years. Since light travels at the speed of 300,000 kilometers per second, one light-year is almost 10 trillion kilometers. (A trillion is a million million.) With the exception of astronomers, who...

    (pp. 262-280)

    Optimistic discussions of our future in space have an inspirational quality and stress the inevitability of migration from Earth. Even as yesterday’s settlers drove Conestoga wagons across the American plains, tomorrow’s will drive spaceships to the Moon, to Mars, and to the asteroid belt. The time line is uncertain, but some of these discussions are couched in terms of decades, not centuries. If we ourselves don’t live long enough to get there, then at least our children will have a chance to be the first humans on Mars.

    How inexorable is our drive to reach the stars? To get there,...

  20. Notes
    (pp. 281-312)
  21. Index
    (pp. 313-324)
  22. Back Matter
    (pp. 325-325)