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Positive Psychological Outcomes of Spaceflight: An Empirical Study

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Abstract:

Ihle EC, Ritsher JB, Kanas N. Positive psychological outcomes of spaceflight: an empirical study. Aviat Space Environ Med 2006; 77:93–101.



Introduction: Anecdotes from astronauts and cosmonauts suggest that spaceflight can be an enriching experience with enduring positive effects. These positive mental health effects may help protect flight crews from the psychological stress inherent in such high-risk missions. The goal of this study was to identify areas of personal growth likely to result from traveling in space and explore how they were patterned. Methods: We developed a Positive Effects of Being in Space (PEBS) Questionnaire, which included a section adapted from the Post-Traumatic Growth Inventory (PTGI) as well as original items addressing experiences unique to spaceflight. We sent the anonymous questionnaire to 175 astronauts and cosmonauts who had flown on at least 1 mission; completed surveys were returned by 39 individuals. Results: Every respondent had a positive reaction to being in space, the strongest of which related to the Earth’s beauty and fragility. Respondents reported changes in both attitudes and behaviors. Respondents appeared to cluster into two groups based on the intensity of their reported changes. Response patterns did not vary by demographic group, number of missions flown, or total elapsed time in space. Conclusions: Overall, our findings support the idea that being in space is a meaningful experience that makes an enduring positive impression on astronauts and cosmonauts. An enhanced understanding of the salutogenic effects of space travel will contribute to the education, training, and support of future space crewmembers.

Keywords: adaptation; coping; countermeasures; personality; salutogenesis

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2006-02-01

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