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Culture and Tension During an International Space Station Simulation: Results from SFINCSS’99

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Sandal GM. Culture and tension during an international space station simulation: results from SFINCSS’99. Aviat Space Environ Med 2004; 75(7, Suppl.):C44–51.

Background: This paper addresses the impact of cultural heterogeneity on interpersonal tension during multinational space missions. Methods: Data were collected during SFINCSS’99, which simulated the living conditions on ISS. Three crews (n = 12) were confined in connected hyperbaric chambers. Group 1 was confined for 240 d, while Groups 2 and 3 were confined for 110 d. Group 1 was composed of four Russian subjects; Group 2 included three Russian subjects and one non-Russian subject; and Group 3 included Japanese, Russian, Austrian and Canadian subjects. Group 3 included the only female participant. Peer ratings, questionnaires and interviews assessed tension within and between crews, critical incidents and cultural factors impacting on crew interaction. Results: Compared with Group 1, Group 3 evaluated their own group and the Mission Control more negatively. A conflict between Group 1 and 3 was reflected in mutual negative ratings after 1 mo. This situation resulted in an unplanned closure of the hatch between the chambers and in one subject leaving the study prematurely. Group 3 expressed dissatisfaction with mission support and interventions from outside personnel to resolve the interpersonal problems. The entrance of an international visiting crew was reported to alleviate tension between Groups 1 and 3. Language problems and different attitudes toward gender relations were factors identified as having a major impact on the inter-group relationship. Conclusions: The results may demonstrate some of the difficulties faced by crewmembers belonging to cultural minorities when operational control is in the hands of one national organization, as well as the need for countermeasures designed to address these problems.
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Keywords: cohesion; gender; inter-group conflicts; space missions

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 2004

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